All posts tagged Ezra Levant

Wildrose tells Craig Chandler to get lost; Tories might be smart to do the same

Craig B. Chandler in a portrait snatched from his Facebook Page. Below: Wildrose Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s brisk communication to Mr. Chandler.

GRANDE PRAIRIE

If Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party leaders were smart, they’d quickly find a way to send the same message to Craig B. Chandler he just got from Opposition Leader Danielle Smith.

On April 10, Ms. Smith, concerned Mr. Chandler was suggesting he was just the guy to bridge the gap between her Wildrose Party and the foundering Tories, Tweeted to him: “Your views & how you express them are wrong for Wildrose and Alberta. I would never let you be a candidate for #wrp.”

So, tell us Ms. Smith, what do you really think about Mr. Chandler?

For the moment, at least, the current generation of Alberta PCs hasn’t found the intestinal fortitude to deal with Mr. Chandler, so the “businessman, pundit, and political and religious activist,” as he is described on his Wikipedia page, is continuing to seek the PC nomination in the Calgary Shaw riding.

His announcement last week got a surprising amount of media attention, presumably because of his controversial history on the fringes of the social conservative right plus the fact journalists somehow got the idea Mr. Chandler was going to announce a bid for the leadership of the PC Party.

Mr. Chandler has a long and well-established history of activities with fringe political parties, frequent and unsuccessful bids for political office, and controversy surrounding his vociferously expressed anti-gay-rights views.

Mr. Chandler, who migrated to Alberta from Ontario in 1995, also thinks Christians are the victims of persecution in modern-day Canada and has demanded that newcomers to the province vote conservative or go home. He used to answer his telephone by barking “Happy Capitalism!”

If Mr. Chandler had launched a leadership campaign, as he did once before, it would have gone a long way to eliminating the few tatters of credibility and respectability still clinging to the Redford-Hancock Government.

If the PCs want to avoid embarrassment and send Mr. Chandler packing, there’s a precedent. In 2007, a horrified then-premier Ed Stelmach gave him the bum’s rush after he somehow got the nomination in the Calgary Edgemont riding.

Indeed, in his latest candidacy announcement, Mr. Chandler’s handout made reference to Mr. Stelmach’s decision, and went on to say that “as a result of this denial Craig Chandler helped found the Wildrose Party which is now the opposition party in Alberta.” The Wildrose Party says Mr. Chandler had nothing to do with its establishment.

Regardless of that dispute, which they can settle themselves, the reasons Mr. Stelmach skidded Mr. Chandler as a candidate were the same as the things that had Ms. Smith’s hair standing on end last week.

Mr. Chandler, by the way, responded to losing his nomination in the 2008 general election by running as an independent candidate against the man the Tories found to replace him, Jonathan Denis, who is now the attorney general and a rumoured leadership candidate himself.

Remember, the Wildrose Party has already quite possibly lost one election because of statements made in a similar vein to some of Mr. Chandler’s commentary by a loose-cannon candidate. Once bitten, twice shy, they are obviously not going back for another dip in the Lake of Fire if they can avoid it.

If it’s any comfort, it’s not just gay rights the intemperate Mr. Chandler has issues with. He once called your blogger a “modern day Nazi who attacks anyone of faith” for criticizing some of TV host Ezra Levant’s comments on a secular topic. Go figure!

It is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Chandler is electoral poison to any party he has anything to do with. The Tories are going to have to skid him again sooner or later. It’s said here Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock would be smart to stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood right now, just as Ms. Smith did, before the guy becomes the PCs’ Pastor Alan Hunsperger!

If they wait, it’s only going to get worse.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

The ‘Self Preservation Society’ wants Jim Prentice for ‘The Alberta Job’ – but can he forgo his ambition to be PM?

“The Alberta Job.” Will the original “Self Preservation Society” get to keep the Tory gold? Is Jim Prentice – above, not exactly as illustrated – the man to help them do it? Read on to find out why we’ll probably never find out. Below: The actual Jim Prentice. Below him: Possible, rumoured, putative PC leadership candidate Stephen Mandel.

The question Jim Prentice really needs to ask himself is this: “Do I really want to ride that bus all the way to the bottom of the cliff and be sitting in it when it bursts into flames?”

The question the lawyer, banking boss and sometime federal Conservative politician will actually ask himself will likely be a little more polished, and a little more complicated. To wit: “Can becoming leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party help my ambition to become the prime minister of Canada?”

But in the end – since the metaphorical bus in the first question represents the Alberta PC Party, the original Self Preservation Society, the cliff it’s teetering on represents the election that is going to have to be called sooner or later, and the gold in the back represents the gold in the back – the questions are actually pretty much the same.

If Mr. Prentice is the person he appears to be, the answer to either question is likely to be a resounding No!

With an excellent and extensive political resume, and the opinion widely held in Alberta political circles that there’s no one in the current Alberta PC caucus and cabinet likely to be able to fend off a challenge to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party whenever an election gets called, it’s natural that die-hard PCs see Mr. Prentice as a potential saviour of their party after the disaster of the Redford-Hancock Government.

The other potential savior that gets some Tory hearts going pitty-pat these days is former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. But notwithstanding Mr. Mandel’s great collection of bow ties, it seems as if it’s Mr. Prentice that has them mopping their brows and fanning themselves.

Mr. Prentice is available, sort of, having quit his job as Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre North and resigned from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet, in which he had held a number of important posts, back in November 2010.

And he can probably afford the $50,000 entry fee, seeing as since January 2011 he’s been employed as senior executive VP and vice-chairperson of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. And heaven knows, they need the money!

Sounds like he’s dipped his toes in the leadership lake a couple of times too, just to see how warm the water is, as he’s been known to do once or twice before in similar circumstances.

But you’ll notice that, notwithstanding the understandable buzz from desperate Alberta Tories dreaming of a way to hang onto power one more time, Mr. Prentice doesn’t seem to have made any announcements, or said anything much of consequence at all. This, presumably, is because he’s still mulling over his chances and what they mean to his ultimate ambition – to wit, the prime ministership of Canada.

As I see it, there are three things that could happen if Mr. Prentice throws his hat in the Progressive Conservative leadership ring and tries to get “The Alberta Job”:

  1. He could lose to one of the other candidates – which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.
  2. He could win the nomination and then lose the election – which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.
  3. He could win the nomination and somehow win the election – which would be a disaster for his hopes of becoming PM.

The problem with Point 3 from Mr. Prentice’s perspective, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention since 1896, when the 69-day ministry of Charles Tupper came to an end, is that Sir Charles was the last provincial premier ever to become prime minister of Canada.

And it’s likely to stay that way. After all, why would Canadians elect a provincial premier as national leader – a surefire guarantee, in the public mind, of a leader who won’t consider the needs of the entire country.

Someday, I suppose, we may elect a PM who was a premier first, but it won’t be any time soon, and it will most likely be a short-lived accident like Sir Charles Tupper.

Ergo, unless he’s given up on his prime ministerial ambitions, Mr. Prentice would be nuts to run to be premier of Alberta.

Also, he’d have to give up his current job as a big shot with CIBC, which almost certainly includes a pretty comfortable bi-weekly pay packet and some nice additional perks.

On the other hand, perhaps Mr. Prentice has concluded, like me, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will never willingly let go. Yeah, I know, the Ottawa Press Gallery has been in a frenzy for a year about how Mr. Harper is depressed, Mr. Harper has no friends left, Mr. Harper will quit any minute now…

But it’s said here that reading this kind of stuff every day would make it pretty hard for a man of Mr. Prentice’s inclinations to take a chance on the Alberta Job.

Still, if you’re a desperate Alberta Tory, you can dream of just such a miracle.

And if you’re the Bull Goose Strategist for the Wildrose Party – whoever that is now that Tom Flanagan spends his days writing judgmental books about the prime minister we have at the moment – you can have nightmares about it.

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Who knew? The loons of the Right were right for once!

If you Google the terms “Lorne Gunter” and “Nanny State,” you will discover that this particular combination has been posted to the Internet more than 4,400 times.

Mostly, the Sun Media columnist seems to have been complaining about things done by the Alberta government, such as banning the use of cellular phones while driving, but other governments appear to be guilty of trying to create a nanny state too in Mr. Gunter’s relentlessly consistent worldview.

It gets more interesting. Replace “Lorne Gunter” with “Monte Solberg,” another Sun Media columnist of similar views, and you will Google 21,200 articles. After that, it just gets better: Ezra Levant: 47,500 articles using “Nanny State.” Brian Lilley: 72,300. Michael Coren: 203,000!

OK, we already knew these guys were drinking from the same bathtub. Still, it turns out they were right. Really!

At any rate, CBC Edmonton investigative journalist Charles Rusnell reported yesterday that when Alison Redford was still premier of Alberta, and before that when she was minister of justice, she not only took her daughter on 50 flights aboard the government airplane, but on at least one occasion she brought the nanny along too.

So it turns out Alberta really is a “nanny state”! Leastways, the nanny really was aboard the state plane. Who knew?

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.

Everyone must do their duty for Canada – even Sun News Network ideologues

Admiral Horatio Nelson gives up his life in the service of his country on the deck of HMS Victory on Oct. 21, 1805. Below: Horatio Nelson; his famous signal to his fleet: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Surely, Canada should expect no less!

NEW YORK

“England expects that every man will do his duty,” Admiral Horatio Nelson signalled from HMS Victory to the brave sailors his fleet as the Battle of Trafalgar, the decisive naval fight of the Napoleonic Wars, commenced.

Sometimes there is a moment in a nation’s history when all good people must do their duty, no matter how hard.

Compared to the fate that on Oct. 21, 1805, awaited many British seamen – including Admiral Nelson himself – the sacrifice required of the supposed patriots employed in the Ideology Department of the Sun News Network is not very great.

Still, we recognize it is a sacrifice.

Sun News Network publishes the Sun tabloid newspapers, owns rural and small town weeklies across Canada and broadcasts the odious Sun TV commentary programs, and as such is home to a raft of so-called straight talkers like Ezra Levant, Michael Coren, Brian Lilley and the former Parliamentarian from Medicine Hat Monte Solberg.

Every one of these gentlemen would have us believe he is a loyal Canadian of the most patriotic stock. Indeed, it is part of the Sun chain’s shtick. The TV network, for example, characterizes itself as unapologetically patriotic.”

Now the owner of Sun News Network and the animating spirit behind its relentlessly spun news coverage and tireless far-right propaganda, Pierre Karl Péladeau, has announced that he will be running for the Parti Quebecois in the next Quebec election.

Technically, Mr. Péladeau is the owner of Quebecor Inc., the corporate owner of Sun News Network and other English and French media operations. But the line from Mr. Péladeau  through his corporate head office to the troops in the understaffed newsrooms of the chain throughout the land is direct and unequivocal.

Mr. Péladeau’s ambition, he bluntly admits, is to sever Quebec from Canada and create a new country that his children can be proud of. It has been said here his commentators have not done much to make them proud of Canada – but that was before the threat was obvious.

Now Mr. Péladeau may very well destroy the nation his network claims to unapologetically love.

Moreover, he says he has no intention of giving up his ownership stake in Quebecor – although it would seem he’s prepared to put it for a spell in what the Sun would no doubt call a Venetian-blind trust if it were a Liberal or New Democrat politician we were talking about.

This is something that men like Messrs. Levant, Coren, Lilley, Bell and Solberg, and a host of lesser lights at lesser Quebecor addresses throughout the land, will have to think about as they put their minds to the work that will be required of us all to save our country.

Now, I’m not saying that they owe it to themselves to say and do the right thing, or that they ought to think about it, or eventually get around to it.

I am saying that they have a duty to speak up clearly, unequivocally and loudly for their country. Now.

These are the people who claim to be the Canadian masters of “straight talk,” and there has never been a time in our country’s history when straight talk has been needed more.

If they are threatened by their arm’s length proprietor, they have a duty to ignore him.

And if they are prevented from doing their duty, they have the additional obligation to quit and no longer serve a man and an organization that – regardless of how they are loved for their ideology by the PMO of Stephen Harper – would then be like a dagger pointed at the heart of our country.

If they do not speak up for Canada directly, forthrightly, courageously and immediately, we will know what they are made of, and what they are.

As Admiral Nelson might have said on that bloody day in 1805: “That will do, gentlemen. Make it directly!”

NOTE: Astonishingly, here in New York City where one comes every year to be reinspired by Broadway, there’s nary a word in the local press about the fate of the Alberta Progressive Conservative dynasty, what Dave Hancock is likely to do in his unexpected role of interim premier, or who may try to replace him. This is shocking in a way since it was just a year and a few days ago that the government of then-premier Alison Redford took out a $30,000 ad in the New York Times touting the Keystone XL Pipeline. Do these people remember nothing? Well, we’ll return to all those things soon enough, leastways, if this blogger makes it out of town on Tuesday ahead of what the local press is covering: “The Snow Bomb.” 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.

The ‘Petroleum Party’ in full cry about Neil Young: what are they afraid of? Not what Northwestern Alberta doctors fear

Neil Young: Giving as good as he’s been getting during an all-out attack by the Petroleum Party. Below: Dr. John O’Connor, vilified by the hirelings, toadies and pet legislators of the petroleum industry; Edmonton Journal reporter Sheila Pratt.

Here in Alberta, the Petroleum Party dominates everything – the federal government, the provincial government, the government benches in the Legislature, the opposition benches in the same place, the media and, it turns out, parts of the medical profession as well.

Refusal to bend to the will of this nearly omnipotent and omnipresent industry, with its vast wealth and numberless retainers, hirelings and toadies in government and media can be a risky proposition – as we have all seen with the hysterical and unremitting national campaign against rocker Neil Young throughout the past few days.

Mr. Young’s crime? Publicly supporting a northern Alberta First Nation that’s fighting Bitumen Sands expansion on its traditional land. That Mr. Young has given as good as he got, and held his own against this tide of rage and fury, has given this story a David-and-Goliath quality that has many ordinary Canadians shaking their heads and wondering, “What are they afraid of?”

Still, it was shocking to read in the local press that physicians in northwest Alberta’s Peace River region are not only afraid to speak out about the impact on humans and the environment of oil and gas activity there, but that some of them have refused to treat patients who thought their health problems might be related to petroleum industry emissions. According to Edmonton Journal reporter Sheila Pratt, one medical lab even refused to process a patient’s medical tests!

In the case of the doctors and of the lab, presumably, they were afraid that their investigations might reveal the petroleum industry was the cause of someone’s health problems. Doing that, they knew, could cause big problems – both for patients in a region economically dependent on petroleum development and for any professional who dares to challenge the orthodoxies of approved politics and science in Alberta.

In her unusual and courageous report, Ms. Pratt, a former senior editor at the Journal who obviously still retains some influence there, told how the documents she had obtained in advance of an inquiry into smells and health around a sulphur-rich oilfield showed how one doctor advised patients to contact an environmental lawyer if they wanted to deal with what ailed them, their families and their communities.

Ms. Pratt came as close as she could to explaining why the consequences of challenging the Petroleum Party can be much more devastating for professionals like physicians, who depend on their credentials to earn a living, than for a rock musician who resides safely in the Republic to the south or even a plain old garden variety environmental activist.

Ms. Pratt quoted a toxicology expert from Ontario who was hired by the Calgary-based Alberta Energy Regulator, the industry-funded corporation that is supposed to regulate oil, gas and coal development in this province, to write a report on the conflict between a bitumen processor near Peace River and its human neighbours.

“Physicians are quite frankly afraid to diagnose health conditions linked to the oil and gas industry,” the toxicologist was quoted as saying in Ms. Pratt’s report.

According to the news story, the toxicologist “heard several times about the case of Dr. John O’Connor, who was threatened with loss of his licence after raising an alarm about cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan.”

Dr. O’Connor practiced medicine in 2003 in the predominantly First Nations communities of Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan, which are about 280 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and both downstream and downwind of the largest Bitumen Sands mining and processing operations.

Both the federal and provincial governments harshly criticized Dr. O’Connor for daring to suggest the industry might have caused serious health problems among residents of the communities, including unusually high rates of blood, colon, bile duct and liver cancer.

The provincial government disputed 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, including blocking access to files, billing irregularities, causing mistrust of government in Fort Chipewyan and “undue alarm” among residents of the community.

The charges could have resulted in Dr. O’Connor losing his ability to work as a physician.

Notwithstanding the province’s earlier claims, in 2009 the Alberta Cancer Board released a study that did find higher-than-expected rates of some cancers among residents in Fort Chip – although that study did not identify a cause.

Moreover, Dr. O’Connor was eventually cleared of all the charges against him.

But you’d never know of his exoneration if you believed the vicious jeremiad against Dr. O’Connor published just last week on national TV by oil industry attack poodle Ezra Levant, as he continued the smear campaign against the physician, who still practices in the region.

A warning to readers tempted to watch this ugly episode of Mr. Levant’s program: it is nauseating stuff.

But Mr. Levant’s broadside against Dr. O’Connor was merely a sidebar to his vilification of Mr. Young, who for obvious reasons was the Petroleum Party’s principal target. Accordingly, the musician and songwriter was the victim of a stream of vituperation and character assassination from virtually every quarter of the mainstream media, which remains in full cry.

Nevertheless, what happened to Dr. O’Connor – and what continues to happen to him – is a clear illustration of why physicians in northwestern Alberta at least, unlike the many foes of the outspoken rock ’n’ roll musician, are not just being hysterical or paranoid when they say they don’t want to touch the health impacts of the petroleum industry with the proverbial bargepole.

Still, the question remains a good one: What does the Petroleum Party have to fear that accounts for this viciousness?

Have they concluded there’s some danger democracy might beak out again in Canada, or even here in Alberta?

It seems likely the attacks on Mr. Young will continue for a while yet, quite possibly with increasing frenzy – especially if the musician continues to be able to dish it back as effectively as his foes dish it out.

They will also seek new targets, some of whom are also quite capable of defending themselves and their arguments – for example, such as environmentalist and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, whom Alberta Premier Alison Redford risibly promises to set straight immediately with a disciplinary knuckle rap.

For its part, the Alberta government has promised to release more information on cancer rates in Fort Chip very soon. But don’t count on anyone ponying up the money needed for a rigorous and credible scientific study.

We don’t really do science in this part of the world any more if the Petroleum Party has no use for it.

The hearing by the industry-owned “regulator” also held sessions yesterday in Peace River, and Ms. Pratt was back to cover them.

The story, as they say, continues.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

With free expression under assault in Alberta, where’s ‘free speech advocate’ Ezra Levant?

So-called free-speech advocate and celebrity commentator Ezra Levant. Below: Free-speech opponent Alison Redford, Canada’s answer to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, shown below her; that Voltaire guy; nearly forgotten Tory political strategist Stephen Carter.

Where’s Ezra Levant now that we need him?

Mr. Levant, after all, is frequently billed as Canada’s foremost “free speech advocate,” although mostly by himself and his friends in the headline writing department at the National Pest.

Still, establishing his free-speech-defending cred is an effort the celebrity Sun News Network entertainer seems to take seriously, going so far as to have a whiny website called StandWithEzra.ca at which he catalogues his various efforts on behalf of freedom of expression and solicits donations to assist with the legal contretemps that can sometimes afflict those who speak freely.

Meanwhile, out here in Alberta, Mr. Levant’s home province as it happens, we are facing some pretty serious free-speech challenges of our own.

Astonishingly, though, Mr. Levant seems to have nothing to say about them!

Alert readers will recall that the provincial government of Premier Alison Redford, who apparently aspires to be known as Canada’s answer to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has made the helpless MLAs in her timorous caucus pass legislation that takes a swipe at Alberta’s public sector unions and in the process restricts the free-speech rights of all Albertans.

This is weird, because unlike the Midwestern Republican governor south of the Medicine Line, a pretty good case can be made that Ms. Redford scraped back into office in 2012 thanks for those very same public employees she and her ministers are now trying to kick to the curb.

Well, maybe it wasn’t Ms. Redford who made all those promises to the public sector and its supporters! Maybe it was just something her 2012 campaign supremo, Stephen Carter, cooked up on his own and didn’t tell her about. Regardless, I’m sure it’s OK with Ms. Redford if Mr. Carter gets to wear the rotten tomatoes now that she’s decided to flop-flop on public services and flip off Alberta’s pubic servants!

The important thing to remember is that the Redford Government’s big entry into the field of drafting labour legislation includes a provision that makes it illegal for any Albertan to express certain opinions about labour issues of which Ms. Redford disapproves.

Under Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act, which has precious little to do with continuing public services, it is now illegal for anyone, no matter what motivates them, to suggest that a public employee might be justified to strike illegally – which, since strikes by public service employees were already illegal in Alberta, presumably means it’s illegal to say it makes sense for a public employee to strike, period.

Maybe you’re wondering about those physicians who sometimes tell the health care employees they work beside, “Man, you ought to go on strike!” Well, technically, they’re now subject to a $500 fine just for saying it, and another $500 every day they say the same thing. This goes on every day after that until the $500 fines start to cut into that zero-per-cent increase the docs supposedly got, but didn’t really, from Ms. Redford and her finance minister.

Actually, I misspoke. They’re not subject to the new law yet – which is why I’m writing about it here today. Ms. Redford’s crack legal team made sure that while the Public Sector Thoughtcrime Act was passed and given Royal Assent, it was not proclaimed into law – presumably as a gambit to make this obviously unconstitutional law more difficult to challenge in court.

Still, since everyone figures it’s going to take five or six years of stalling by the government’s lawyers before the Supreme Court punts it, umpires in the civil service softball league are going to have to start yelling “Ball” and “No-Ball” instead of shouting “Strike!” at slow-pitch games next summer.

The problem with this is that every time the ump calls “No balls!,” a worried looking member of the Tory caucus is likely to show up expecting to be told to cast a vote against his constituents!

Where was I? Oh yeah. Ezra.

So what does Mr. Levant, Canada’s greatest friend of free speech, have to say now that the most direct attack on free expression since the imposition of the War Measures Act is taking place in his home province?

Not a peep! Nada.

I know, I know. Mr. Levant is no friend of unions. Indeed, he calls anyone who works for one a “union boss,” which is a bit of a stretch in certain cases.

Still, it’s that thing Voltaire didn’t say, but guys like Mr. Levant won’t stop saying, right? “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it…” Yadda-yadda.

So now that it’s illegal in Alberta to express certain opinions Ms. Redford doesn’t want to hear on pain of a fine of $500 a day – $10,000 a day if you happen to be a union boss – isn’t it mildly surprising that Mr. Levant’s got nothing at all to say about it? What’s with that?

Instead, the celebrity commentator is beating up an old rocker like Neil Young for saying things Mr. Levant disagrees with about his other favourite topic – the wonderfulness of Alberta’s Bitumen Sands. Talk about finding the easy way out!

So where does all this get us, you wonder?

Well, it gets us here: If Mr. Levant doesn’t say something soon about the most serious attack on free expression in Canada in the last half century, presumably because he doesn’t particularly like the people who are being victimized by this offensive law, I think we’re within our rights to reach the conclusion he’s full of … you know, stuff.

And if he’s full of stuff about free speech, maybe he’s full of stuff about everything else he goes on about too.

 

Free speech still matters in Ukraine, so why not in Canada?

Apparently concern about a lack of free speech in Ukraine continues to grow in Canadian Conservative circles that are completely untroubled by the same thing in Canada.

The latest example is federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who according to the unblushing stenographers at the Toronto Sun, told a demonstration of Ukrainian Canadians in Toronto Sunday that Canada is considering economic sanctions against Ukraine for that country’s legislative crackdown on protesters, which includes a ban on wearing masks during demonstrations.

Uh, isn’t this the same Canadian government that last summer enacted legislation cracking down on protesters that … bans wearing of masks during an unlawful assembly, on pain of a 10-year jail sentence?

If this is evidence that Ukraine is “moving away from Western-style democracy,” as the Sun reporter put it, does that mean Canada is also moving away from Western-style democracy? Actually, there is plenty of evidence for just that proposition.

As noted, Mr. Alexander’s example of official Canadian doublethink on the topic of public protest in Ukraine is not unique. Last month, Alberta’s then deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk expressed his distress at the attacks on free expression in Ukraine.

Mr. Lukaszuk is one of the principal architects of Bill 45, unconstitutional Alberta legislation that attacks the free-speech rights of all Albertans. Like Mr. Alexander, he was also speaking at a demonstration by Ukrainian Canadians worried about what’s happening back on the steppes of Eurasia.

The difference? Kiev is 7,000 kilometres from Ottawa and 8,000 kilometres from Edmonton, I guess. Plus, Canadian Conservatives apparently don’t think Ukrainians are stupid.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca

Who gets muzzled next by unconstitutional Redford Government laws? Environmentalists?

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, in motorcycle sidecar, gives the order to go after a pesky trade unionist’s blog. But look out! Alison Redford’s Alberta Thought Police may already have their eyes on you! Actual Redford cabinet ministers may not appear exactly as illustrated. Then again, new uniforms for cabinet and caucus may already be on order.

Now that the Redford Government’s unconstitutional attack on free collective bargaining and free speech is in full swing, we have to ask ourselves who’s next?

Environmentalists?

Quite possibly.

I mean, who else would they like to shut up right now as much as they want to muzzle those pesky public sector unions – which are always noisily defending public services Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s government would really prefer to privatize?

Environmentalists, after all, have a similar habit of arguing against pipelines to all points of the compass and minimal controls on the expensive-to-implement environmental protections hated by petroleum companies run by the Koch Brothers and other generous donors to “conservative” causes of their ilk!

But legislation like Alberta Bills 45 and 46 are part of a broader pattern elsewhere in Canada and throughout the increasingly undemocratic nations of the industrialized West to criminalize dissent of any kind.

Why do you think the Redford Government also recently proposed to throw elected Alberta mayors and municipal councillors in jail if they didn’t immediately or at any point knuckle under to the government’s planned approach to regional government?

If you think this government, having added the offence of Thoughtcrime to the books, is going to stop at just one, it is said here you are hopelessly naïve. Anyone who protests anything to do with the various Alberta and federal Petroleum Parties’ agenda of austerity (meaning forced poverty and redistribution of wealth upward) or the swift and thoughtless resource exploitation is at risk of falling victim to laws like we saw passed Wednesday and yesterday in the Legislature.

So I’m not kidding when I say that when the Redford Government made it illegal on Wednesday for any Albertan to argue that civil servants and health care workers should sometimes strike, even if such a strike happens to be against the law, they’ll be thinking of ways to muzzle environmentalists and shut down all forms of public protest next.

Maybe they’ll introduce a northern version of U.S. “food libel” laws, which make it easy for processed food corporations in 13 states to sue critics for “libeling” their unhealthy products through the exercise of free expression, say by suggesting that inspection standards at a certain meat processing plant may not be up to snuff or that there might be dangers for consumers in the consumption of genetically modified food, too much salt or too much sugar.

The Wikipedia notes that many of these laws – like garden-variety defamation laws in Canada – place the burden of proof on the defendant, not on the deep-pocketed corporation claiming to have been wronged or inconvenienced.

Or perhaps the Redford Government will try to make it possible for pipeline companies to sue individual British Columbians who speak up against the environmental dangers of running a pipeline from northern Alberta to the B.C. coast – dangers that, of course, the Alberta and federal governments pretend don’t even exist.

Undoubtedly the thought of making it a crime, say punishable by a fine of $500 a day to utter the words “global warming” aloud, sets their dark little neoliberal hearts aflutter.

Or perhaps they’ll pass a western Canadian version of the now-defeated Charest Government’s Bill 78 last year, which criminalized constitutionally protected protest in the guise of suppressing vandalism. Throw in some huge Spanish-style fines and CCTV cameras in kitchen aids stores and you can lock down most forms of democratic dissent pretty tightly.

Or maybe our government will make it illegal for land owners and property rights advocates to claim they’re not being properly compensated or allege there may be health threats from corporations who want to build electrical power lines or drill gas wells on their property.

Preposterous? Many of us might have thought so before Wednesday night and the wee hours of yesterday morning, when the Alberta government moved to gag bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens who might be tempted to suggest an illegal strike might be the only way for public employees to resolve a situation – say, unsafe conditions in a new provincial jail that management ignored and refused to correct. (Not that anything like that would ever happen in Alberta!)

Up to now, efforts by conservative politicians and their media echo chamber to silence their environmental opposition has focused on hysterical accusations that the environmentalists’ campaigns are funded by green foreign devils.

As an aside, I must say it beats the hell outta me why it’s OK for a federal environment minister to declare jihad on foreign environmentalists and suggest they have no business intervening in Canadian affairs by buying ads arguing against pipelines, but it’s just fine for the same Conservative government to spend $24 million of our money in the United States intervening in American affairs by buying advertising in favour of pipelines.

Go figure, eh? Maybe it’s because they take free speech a little more seriously south of the Medicine Line than we do here in Alberta and you’ve got to play by local rules.

I’m sure a “free speech advocate” like the Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant would be happy to explain the ethical underpinnings of this puzzlement.

Regardless, getting back to the matter at hand, now that Ms. Redford’s regime has imposed one unconstitutional limit on free speech they find inconvenient, don’t count on it that her brain trust won’t try the same stunt again … with you.

When they do, just remember where you heard it first!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Ford Nation dumped? Stay tuned for more program changes at Sun News Network

Toronto City Hall. Actual city halls in Canada’s largest city may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Rob Ford, Doug Ford, Kory Teneycke and Ezra Levant.

Does anyone seriously believe Sun News Network cancelled Ford Nation after its inaugural show on Monday because of Rob and Doug Ford’s “relative inexperience with the medium”?

Please!

Lots of people will accept at face value this claim about the loony-right-wing cable channel’s show starring the Ford Brothers, along with the equally fatuous suggestion “the brutal economics of cable TV” played a role. After all, both ideas come from no less an august source than the Globe and Mail in the self-described National Newspaper’s cover-to-cover reportage of the never-ending meltdown at Toronto City Hall, which, come to think of it, does look a little like a nuclear reactor building.

But let’s think about this for a minute.

The one and only broadcast of the program attracted, according to the same source, 155,000 viewers.

That compares with normal ratings of little more than 30,000 viewers for one of the network’s most popular shows, The Source, with the clownish Ezra Levant. And that’s when Mr. Levant is having a good day.

Mr. Levant took a break from his usual duties to act as one of the hosts of Ford Nation on Monday, gently lobbing softball questions at Toronto’s rapidly disintegrating mayor and his brother, who is now the chief magistrate’s sole remaining supporter on council.

It’s said here this is an audience that Sun News would only have surrendered under the most extraordinary of circumstances, and five hours spent on production time just doesn’t seem sufficiently extraordinary.

Now, about those five hours, I thought the private sector was supposed to be efficient. Isn’t that what Sun News keeps telling us? So how much time does it actually take to blip out even a stream of F-words, P-words and whatever other obscenities pepper the Ford Brothers’ version of public discourse?

C’mon, people! This time estimate strains credulity. Even if Ford Nation ratings were bound to start slipping after Rob Ford’s repeated come-to-Jesus moments started to grow tiresome to viewers still in possession of their faculties, those kind of numbers simply could not be ignored by a marginal operation like Sun News Network, which by its own admission will have to shut down if it doesn’t get some kind of a break soon from viewers or the federal government.

“It’s by far the most successful thing, from an audience perspective, the network has ever done,” the Globe quoted Kory Teneycke, a vice-president of Sun News, as saying.

So what’s really going on? Alert readers will recall that Mr. Teneycke is a former communications aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose office the same day gingerly waded into the issue by saying it was “troubled” by the “allegations” against the PM’s suddenly too-famous fishin’ buddy and fellow traveller. Allegations!

Employment Minister Jason Kenney, of course, was a little stronger in his comments, calling on the mayor for God’s sake to get out and end his occupation of Toronto City Hall, which is rapidly turning into the Hogtown House of Horror.

My guess is the PMO finally put in a call to Sun News and instructed the semi-official state broadcaster to pull the plug on the embarrassing spectacle right flippin’ now! Either that, or expect consequences – especially now that the CBC is behaving itself from the PM’s perspective.

Rob Ford’s long and public association with the prime minister, obviously, is not doing any favours for Mr. Harper or his party, with which the Canadian electorate is growing manifestly weary. And the more the Ford Fiasco is in the media, at home and abroad, the more embarrassing it becomes to the PMO.

The desire of the PMO to see the entire Ford Nation spectacle quietly brought to a conclusion must have been pretty obvious – making the phone call speculated upon in this space the simplest, and hence the most likely, reason for the swift and brutal demise of the astonishingly popular Ford Nation.

Of course, that was yesterday. Today, the Mounties alleged the prime minister’s former chief of staff committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust when he cut that famous $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy.

RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton said in court documents that Nigel Wright “did, without the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government, pay a reward or confer an advantage or benefit on Mike Duffy.” (Emphasis added.)

Given this opinion by the national police, can charges be far behind? And if charges are laid, can Mr. Wright be counted on to take the fall for his micromanaging former capo?

Given that, will the PMO still be as “troubled” by the potential distraction offered by the Ford Bros.?

Maybe we should stay tuned for more changes in the Sun News Network program schedule!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Repeat after me: Justin Trudeau is making rookie mistakes … have you got that?

Justin Trudeau at left, with some boring old white guy in a tie that’s too wide. Don’t ever underrate the power of pixie dust! Below: The same boring guy with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and with well-known cage fighter Patrick Brazeau. Weirdly, everyone in these pictures appears exactly as illustrated!

Repeat after me: Rookie mistakes. Rookie mistakes. Rookie mistakes…

Do you think if we say it enough times, it’ll be true?

Plus, don’t forget Ladies’ Night, Red China and marijuana… I mean, like, really, is this a meme yet?

The entire Canadian punditocracy now seems to have jumped on the Justin-Trudeau-is-a-totally-flaky-rookie bandwagon, which is starting to roll downhill… D’ya think that’s just a coincidence?

But what else could we make of this?

  • “Justin Trudeau still making rookie mistakes”Chantal Hebert in the Toronto Star, Nov. 13
  • “Justin Trudeau does ladies’ night”Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail, Nov. 12
  • “Justin Trudeau’s gaffes reveal the gulf between his intellectual reach and grasp”Andrew Coyne in the National Post, Nov. 11.

Have we got the picture?

OK, Mr. Trudeau, who is the leader of the Liberal party in Parliament, did just say China was his favourite dictatorship, or something like that. And if you write commentary for a big newspaper, you’re expected to comment on something that’s just happened. But do you think anyone was actually listening except, erm, us pundits?

I’m not saying this actually is a conspiracy, mind you. For one thing, it’s usually a mistake to blame a conspiracy when incompetence is the simpler explanation. I’m just wondering is all.

Coincidentally or not, the Rookie Mistakes meme now seems to be the principal Harper Government talking point for the guy the misnamed Conservative Party has identified as the new-old Main Enemy. And it’s also the flavour of the week in the Mainstream Media.

This isn’t really fair to Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, who’s been the person actually doing the heavy lifting on the job of helping Canadians understand the creepy stuff that’s been going on in the Prime Minister’s Office. But whoever said life was fair? Not the prime minister, certainly!

This rookie mistakes thing actually started – in a half-hearted sort of way – back about the time in the spring of 2012 when Mr. Trudeau went into a boxing ring with a second-degree karate black belt named Patrick Brazeau and unexpectedly beat the beejeepers out of him. (What happened to that Brazeau guy, anyway? Haven’t I seen his name somewhere lately?)

Then it really got going a year later when the Tories cobbled together an attack ad showing Mr. Trudeau looking pretty darned good in tights, loveable curls and swirling trails of pixie dust. At the time, and I’m not making this up, the media solemnly pontificated that the Tories were questioning Mr. Trudeau’s masculinity!

I don’t know about you, but if that was the plan, I don’t think it worked. I mean, first of all the guy had just beat the stuffing out of the then-Senator Brazeau, who was apparently the best candidate the Cons could come up with for the role of the Great Blue Hope and everybody in Canada knew it. Second, they were comparing Mr. Trudeau to Stephen Harper, the prime minister, who is not exactly, uh, chiseled, if you know what I mean.

Mr. Trudeau got caught on camera when he put on those tights to perform what the media insisted on calling “a mock striptease.” (Je digresse, but isn’t the mock part the whole idea of any striptease?) But it soon turned out he was doing it in the service of a charity. So the Cons ended up looking mean-spirited (which of course they are), as well as being not much good in a real fight, which everyone could still remember. I mean, seriously people, their ringer had just been thumped by the fellow they were picturing with pixie dust. Seriously!

Plus, their own attack ad put the Man In Tights next to Prime Minister Harper, in a stuffed shirt, which made Mr. Harper look like a dweeb (which, also of course, everyone in Canada knows he is). But then, he is the Grand Old Man of a party whose unofficial motto is No Shirt Too Young to Stuff.

What I’m saying here is that that particular exercise didn’t exactly hurt Mr. Trudeau either, so he then proceeded to tell the world he’d recently had a couple of puffs on a joint to a chorus of howls of Another Rookie Mistake!

Except that that one also didn’t seem to bother anybody who’s technically permitted to talk to a public opinion polling company.

Well, for sure it would have come up big time in some putative future Tory attack ad, had the Tories’ favourite Big Guy in Toronto – the prime minister’s No. 1 fishin’ buddy responsible for “cleaning up the left wing mess” in Hogtown – not been caught sucking back crack cocaine, guzzling vodka, ranting incoherently, hanging around with hookers and … whatever.

Well, here’s a little bet: the China dictatorship thing will also roll off Mr. Trudeau like water off the proverbial duck’s back, just as the marijuana thing did, and the pixie dust thing, and all the other Rookie Mistake things, real and imagined.

Like I said, this isn’t fair. Maybe it even ain’t right. Indeed, as a stuffy old guy with the birth certificate to prove it, it certainly gives me no pleasure me to have to tell you Canadians are sick and tired of leadership by stuffy old guys like Mr. Harper. (I’m not as stuffy as the PM, anyway, thank goodness. At least Ezra Levant was able to catch me, quelle horreur, wearing a Cuban flag in my lapel! Plus, 61 sort of is the new 41, if you have the right attitude.)

I’ve felt from the start that underestimating Justin Trudeau would be a big mistake for Tories and New Democrats alike, not to mention the press.

And making a big deal about nothing but “Rookie Mistakes” that don’t really matter very much to a heck of lot of ordinary Canadian voters is just another way of underestimating him.

Thanks to being habitually underestimated, it’s said here that Mr. Trudeau, pixie dust and all, could very well end up being our prime minister.

If he does, a lot of Canadians will be grateful enough to see the back of Stephen Harper that they’ll be willing to forgive a multitude of sins – even if the grumpy old men and women of what’s left of the newspaper industry don’t approve of men in short pants riding bicycles with training wheels, even if they have nice knees.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.