Archive for May, 2008

So much for higher education

May 30, 2008

That all we need: a public platform for former Liberal Justice Minister, Alan Rock.

The University of Ottawa is poised to make a star hire by appointing former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock as its next president.

A university committee is set to finalize the appointment as early as Tuesday, when the board of governors is expected to approve the choice to succeed Gilles Patry, who is stepping down next month after seven years.

While the 11-member search committee has kept its selection closely guarded, sources confirm Mr. Rock is the top choice.

It’s a good thing it’s the end of the week.


Be very afraid: Alan Rock returns (provide scary music)

May 30, 2008

Just when you are trying to think pleasant thoughts, out of the pond scum emerges our long departed (but not forgotten) former Liberal Justice Minister, Alan Rock.

The late and unlamented Liberal Justice Minister, the architect of the current iteration of Canada’s federal gun laws, has appeared in print blasting the federal Conservative government for extending the amnesty for those firearm owners whose licences have expired and/or have unregistered firearms in their possession.

As Monday’s Windsor Star editorial noted (Long guns: An amnesty of convenience), the Harper government recently extended its amnesty for long gun owners who haven’t obtained or renewed licences and haven’t registered their guns. So those who thumb their noses at the law have been given a free pass for another year. It’s hard to know which is more offensive: the government’s shameless pandering to the gun lobby at the expense of public safety, or the undemocratic trickery it is using to damage a gun control program that it knows it doesn’t have the votes to repeal in the House.

Most gun owners are law-abiding: nearly two million Canadians are licensed to own about seven million registered guns, which is a compliance rate of more than 90 per cent.

But the Tories are rewarding those who haven’t complied. And the amnesty weakens gun control despite strong public support for licensing and registration, and clear evidence that those measures are working.

Mr. Rock conveniently forgets that it was under his direction that two classes of licencing were initially set up. One, the Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) allowed the holder to possess existing firearms and also the acquire new guns. To get a PAL the gun owner had to write a test, go through a background check and pay a fee for that privilege. If you were a hunter or sport shooter or collector and you could see yourself buying some new equipment in the foreseeable future then that was the route you had to go.

But Mr. Rock’s bureaucrats knew that there was a large contingent of gun owners out there, who were not interested in acquiring any new guns and would show resistance to being forced to jump through all of those hoops to maintain ownership of a firearm or two that they had owned for decades. So those clever little government people came up with the Possession Only Licence (POL). Now, they said, you can get a POL for a very reduced cost of $10 and you won’t have to write any tests. So for a moderate fee and no testing you can legally keep your old guns and you will continue to be a good, law-abiding Canadian citizen. It’s for the good of the country.

But what they didn’t tell these people was that the POLs were a one time deal and if – five years down the road when your POL expired – you forgot to renew before the expiry date you were out of luck. Your old POL was gone and you couldn’t get a new one because they didn’t exist any more. So at that point you would have to either turn your guns over to the police to be destroyed or upgrade to a PAL with the requirement to take the tests and pay the higher fees.

Human nature being what it is, aided and abetted by the government not sending out renewal notices, many of these POL holders did not renew before their expiry date – many thought that their POL was a lifetime licence. Then they got letters saying they were illegally in possession of firearms which would be seized and destroyed.

If the Liberal government had stayed in power that’s exactly what would have happened, because I think that was the bureaucratic, long-term plan. And in fact it did happen in some cases. But the Conservative government when it came to power, not having the gun-banning genes of its predecessors, recognized the problem and have over the past few years put in place a series of amnesties allowing those affected to bring themselves in line with the law.

The government press release on the current amnesty says:

The changes will encourage compliance among firearms owners, and also ease administrative requirements for lawful firearms owners. The changes are:

  • Extending by one year the current fee waiver for firearms licence renewals or upgrades;
  • Extending by one year an amnesty which allows individuals with expired licences or in possession of unregistered non-restricted firearms to take steps to bring themselves into compliance; and
  • Allowing eligible holders of expired Possession-Only Licences (POL) to apply for a new POL within a year.

These three measures will be in effect until May 16, 2009.

The other option would be for the police to be going door to door confiscating gopher guns from farmers and family heirlooms from seniors who have unfortunately allowed their POLs to lapse.

But apparently that is what Mr. Rock wants to see happen.

Yesterday they were law-abiding citizens. Today their piece of paper is void and they are a threat to the safety of the country.

There is considerably more wrong with Mr. Rock’s comments, but those will have to be dealt with in another posting.

The obsession of Toronto Mayor David Miller

May 28, 2008

Toronto’s Mayor, David Miller, seems to be obsessed with handguns. He’s against them of course. Last week he stepped up his campaign to ban all handguns in Canada by going to the clerics for support.

Mayor David Miller reached out to the city’s faith leaders yesterday, urging them to join in his call for a national handgun ban.

“I’m asking you to help us, to reach out to the members of your mosque, or your synagogue, or your temple or your church and ask them to get involved,” Miller told more than 200 religious leaders at the Toronto Area Interfaith Council’s breakfast.


Rev. Alvin Nicholson of the African Canadian Christian Network, said banning handguns is just one part of the solution.

“If you remove the gun, they’ll take up knives, they’ll take up hammers, they’ll take up batons, they’ll take up anything,” Nicholson said.

“If we’re trying to get rid of a tree, we don’t take the leaves off.”

The good Reverend says that if you ban handguns it won’t stop the violence but it “is just one part of the solution.” Ok- if a ban won’t stop the violence, just what part of the solution is it? Possibly not any part of the solution?

But it also turns out that the obsessive Mayor doesn’t just hate handguns. It would seem that he hasn’t found a firearm of any type that he wouldn’t like to see banned.

On the website Toronto the Bad, an interview with Miller goes as follows:

Q. In your opinion is there a place for gun ownership?
A. No.

Q. Are you specifically speaking of handguns?
A. I understand that in certain Northern communities, especially Native communities that certain people hunt for a living. I understand that. That is tradition and that rifles are part of the life there. But there’s certainly no need for guns in urban areas of any kind.

So the gun-ban horse that Mayor Miller is riding is not just for handguns. It is all firearms. Unless you live in a “northern” community and more likely only if you are “Native”.

And look at some of his other comments:

“Part of it (guns used in crime) is that they’re being stolen from gun shops or from legitimate collectors, or I should say “legal,” in quotes, from around Toronto. The question for me is: does anyone need any gun in this city, legal or not? And outside of the police the answer is no? So I think there’s a role for us to act in Canada and say, “we don’t need handguns. Period” It doesn’t matter if you’re a collector or not”.

“One of the reasons there was so many shootings in Malvern a couple of years ago was because one so called collector’s guns were stolen”.

Legitimate:accordant with law or with established legal forms and requirements.
conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards.
Legal – Meeting the requirements under law.

Doesn’t that mean the same thing? But it is obvious what he intends. Although Canadian gun owners may be ‘legal’ – ie: Licenced and their firearms registered – the Mayor doesn’t believe anyone has a ‘legitimate’ reason to own them. Obviously not for sport, not for hunting and Dear God certainly not for self-defence!

(An ugly thought. Is there any danger that this (empty holstered) cowboy has aspirations to run for provincial or federal politics?)

But wait! It doesn’t end there. The Mayor in a lovely bit of nastiness has now attacked the (legal? legitimate?) gun clubs along with firearm related businesses in Toronto.

Mayor David Miller wants to close recreational shooting ranges in Toronto, along with giving the city power to block gun manufacturers and wholesalers from opening new plants or warehouses.

“Nobody can deny that hobby directly results in people being shot and killed on the streets of our city,” Miller said of sport shooting yesterday, amid debate on a possible gun bylaw.

Canadian Olympic pistol shooter and downtown resident Avianna Chao begs to differ. She says that if Miller gets his way, it could mean an end to her sport – and it won’t make the streets one bit safer.

Miller wants to terminate leases with two gun clubs that have shooting ranges on city property, one at Union Station, the other at Don Montgomery community centre.

Chao, who will head to Beijing this summer to compete for Canada at the Olympics, began shooting at Don Montgomery and now trains primarily at the Union range.

“When I heard about this city proposal today it just absolutely knocked the wind out of me,” Chao said yesterday.

You have to admit, the guy is really a bit over the top. If he thinks that sport shooting directly results in people being shot and killed in the streets of Toronto, he must really be concerned about the mayhem being caused by all of those high power rifles and shotguns owned by hunters. I’m surprised that Miller hasn’t called in the army to bring order back to the streets of Toronto.

Some interesting stats from the Toronto the Bad website:

There are currently over 1.1 million legally owned handguns in Canada (588,000 new registry, 519,000 old registry). Of these, 230,000 are registered in Ontario to 550,000 licensed firearms owners. The average value of these handguns (including accessories) is approximately $1,000 each.

· A handgun gun ban will cost Canadian taxpayers approximately $2 Billion.

· There are 212 handgun shooting clubs licensed in the Province of Ontario (Chief Firearms Office)

· Of the 108 handguns used in Canadian homicides in 2006, only 6 (5%) were registered. In 2005, of 129 handgun homicides only 4 (3%) were registered. (Ministry of Public Safety)

· The Vancouver Police reported in their 2004 Strategic Plan Report that, “97% of the firearms (all types) seized in crimes had never been in the Canadian system.” (VPD Strategic Plan)

Garth Turner: Trouble in Capitol City?

May 25, 2008

When Garth Turner crossed the floor, following a short stint as an Independent MP, to join the Liberal Caucus, the opposition Liberals greeted him with open arms, showing him off as an example of an ex-Conservative MP seeing the light (so to speak).

Is the honeymoon over?

In an odd blog on May 22nd, Turner talked about stories circulating that there were caucus problems and that he had been “dressed down” by Stephane Dion.

I’ve read all about it on blogs, which now are trying to analyze whether or not (a) I engineered this mess in order to be thrown out and start the NOTA (none-of-the-above) party, or if (b) Bob Rae forces are leaking caucus info in order to cut my legs off since I have been helping the leader on communications issues, or if (c) Iggy forces encouraged me to be manly and provocative just to tick off the feminazis in the Lib caucus, leading to my dressing down by Dion, leading in turn to an Ignatieff hormonal attack on the leader, or if (d) certain caucus members are sending a message, via the W-lady, that I no longer have the protection of caucus confidentiality, in the hope of scuttling the controversial carbon plan, or if (e) my private bits have been too close to my gas tank, thereby weakening my intellect.

And ended by saying:

Well, this is far too deep for me, of course. And I guess I’ll find out next Wednesday morning what my fate is.

Then a denial:

My call finshed, I felt by Berry vibrate in its holster. It was an email from Mike Duffy. “U still a Lib?” it said, “Urgent response needed. Tks duff.” Then another popped up, from Esther. “CTV, STAR OTHERS CALLING, ASK IF YOU ARE KICKED OUT. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Then from Aaron Wherry, of Macleans, “is your status as a member of liberal caucus genuinely in doubt? or is this all silly, baseless conjecture?”

And on it went, as a rumour swept the nation’s capital that Stephane Dion has, indeed, cashed me in. Ironically, of course, this had all started on Duffy’s show, when professional weasel Jane Taber, acting on a courageous anonymous tip, spoke of Stephane Dion allegedly criticizing me in caucus. “Apparently so,” I emailed back, answering his question, “no thanks to gossips.”

For brief moments, though, I was newsworthy. For a clutch of glorious hours, Conservatives felt elation coursing through their veins. Forget the economy, Mad Max, Cadman, election cheating, income trusts or that deficit thingy. After all, this is what politics is all about – elected people beating up on each other. Voters? What voters?

But, it would soon be dashed. The next email came from a poohbah in the leader’s office, which was also apparently fielding calls from reporters. “This,” it said simply, “is bullshit of the highest order.”

Then another blog that comes across as a butt-kissing tribute to his party leader, Stephane Dion.

Moments after I finished my presentation to a hall full of people on the US-BC border one night last week, a guy stood up and shocked me. “It is so encouraging,” he said, “so refreshing, to hear you come here and speak so highly of Stephane Dion.”

And why the hell would I not?

I suppose we’ll never know what played out until someone writes their political memoirs. Ain’t politics wonderful?

Solution to the US gas prices: ‘Socialize’ the energy companies

May 23, 2008

If this is what the U.S. can expect from a Democratic congress and potentially a president who is considered to be one of the most Liberal of the lot, then God help them.

Thanks to Small Dead Animals for the pointer.

Utah scenery: Bryce Canyon

May 20, 2008

Ponderosa Point

The first time I drove through Utah I was blown away by the scenery. Not just the Park areas, but the landscape in general. Rugged and colourful. However I didn’t have the opportunity to take in some of the more spectacular areas.

On our trip through the State in April we took the time to explore Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Both are visually stunning, although from my perspective Zion wins simply because it overwhelms you with size and colour.

Which is not to say that Bryce Canyon isn’t a magnificent piece of country.

The problem (?) with Bryce is that the huge red hoodoos are so extensive that after you have pulled into a few viewpoints, gotten out of the car and taken some pictures, it all begins to blend together. We saw that with a couple from Illinois where the husband wasn’t even getting out of the vehicle to look out over the latest viewpoint. He said that after you have seen two or three vistas of red hoodoos, you’ve seen them all. Not entirely true, but I understood his position.

A couple more pictures from the many photos I took from the many viewpoints:

Natural Bridge

Bryce Point

An Olympic shooter and her hero

May 19, 2008

A very interesting and inspirational story.

Lien Chao arrived in Canada in 1984 with $35 in her pocket and a desperate hope for some kind of equality.

She’d risked everything for a passport out of China, leaving her 9-year-old daughter Avianna behind at first, as she became one of the first self-sponsored students from her country to arrive here. With help from the visiting professor whose readings mesmerized her, she got a scholarship to study Canadian literature at York University.

She was an outcast in China, a strong-minded woman who refused to conform. As the first on her block to get a divorce, leaving an abusive husband, her neighbours spat on her for not just biting her tongue. When she went to get her belongings, bricks rained down in an ambush in which she was also attacked with metal bars.

“I could really have been killed that day,” she said.

She’d been a brilliant student, smart enough to attend Wuhan No. 2 boys’ school, where she not only bested the boys on math tests and essays but in foot races. But her dreams were crushed by the Cultural Revolution. She was designated a “bourgeois flower” because her father was an engineer, and consigned to hard toil in the countryside.

“I really wanted to get out, I really wanted to have this opportunity,” Chao said of coming to Canada. “I would pay anything. If they want my blood, I would give them my blood.”

Flash forward a quarter-century – to the unthinkable. Lien Chao is going back to China this summer to watch her daughter Avianna, now 33, compete for Canada as an Olympic pistol shooter.

Avianna picked up a gun only seven years ago, following her boyfriend into the sport, and now she’s an Olympian.

As Lien Chao quickly points out, the storyline could never have unfolded in China, where athletes are selected in childhood and groomed on a daily basis to become champions.

“It’s amazing, a miracle if you say; it’s a wonderful miracle, but it could only happen in Canada,” said Lien Chao.

It’s not about justice

May 18, 2008

When you read a story like this, you never know if there is something about the case that you are not privy to. On the other hand, I been close to a few cases where I have become seriously cynical about the motives of the enforcement agencies and the crown prosecutors.

The lead-in:

When pilot and big-game guide David Haeg strayed outside the boundaries of a wolf control area near McGrath in 2004 to slaughter some wolves, there is little doubt he thought he was doing the right thing. Everyone involved with the wolf-killing program for which the state had permitted Haeg understood the objective was killing wolves to increase the survival chances for moose.

And even if Haeg and gunner Tony Zellers were technically outside the control area, they were still operating within the boundaries of state Game Management Unit 19D, and the state calls these things “Game Management Units” for a reason.

What were Haeg and Zellers doing anyway but helping to manage the game in Unit 19D?

Unfortunately the state didn’t see it that way. Under fire from animal activists upset about the aerial gunning of wolves, the state saw in Haeg a chance to demonstrate that you can’t just let wolf-control run wild, to spin an old phrase from former Gov. Wally Hickel.

Where it went out of control:

Where the issue turned ugly was in deciding what punishment fit the crime. This is the reason the case is still making its way through the Alaska court system.

The state wanted make an example of David Haeg. It was supposed to be pretty simple:

They’d bust him. They’d make a big show of it by playing the press like a trophy king salmon, something at which law enforcement officials in this state are good.

Wolves shot 20 to 30 miles outside the control area became wolves shot up to 80 miles outside the control area. Haeg was portrayed as a rogue, out-of-control aerial wolf hunter to make it appear the state was keeping a close watch on these hunts, which is the biggest fraud in all this.

Haeg was supposed to take the publicity hit, hire a fixer to negotiate a plea deal and then just wait for everything to fade away.

That’s the way these cases usually go down.

Whether the government decided that they could deflect the heat they were taking from the animal rights crowd by hammering a big-game guide, or the prosecutor on his own ramped up the case to look like an avenging hero, or whether the law enforcement agency felt the need to make a big score, it would appear as though Haeg was the patsy.

Of course what they did to him after he started to fight the charges seems to be par for the course with prosecutors everywhere. They made up a bunch more charges to intimidate him.

But then, we all might be if you consider what happened to Haeg after the plea agreement went bust.

The state used what Haeg said in a five-hour, plea-agreement interview to put together a bunch of new charges. They didn’t just go after him for violating the terms of the aerial wolf-control permit. They went after him for the crime of aerial hunting.

(Haeg makes an interesting argument that someone engaged in state-permitted wolf control isn’t “hunting” because the state, in permitting the aerial gunning, specifically says it isn’t hunting.)

The prosecutors saw it differently. To them, it looked like hunting, and they tried to tie it to the game management unit in which Haeg guides to make it appear he was doing wolf control to further his hunting business.

A trooper testified that Haeg killed the wolves in the game management unit where he has his hunting camps, but eventually recanted that testimony on cross-examination at Haeg’s trail.

Haeg’s case has been in the Alaska courts now for 4 years. Whatever his level of guilt it certainly doesn’t look as though anyone in the enforcement, political or legal encampments is concerned about justice. It looks more like winning at all costs and to hell with the damages that are inflicted.

John Stossel on gun control

May 18, 2008

The weird world of assigning rights to all and sundry

May 16, 2008

Apparently the the new norm in the world is ‘weird’, where the most bizarre philosophy can be given credibility by government legislators. Witness the story out of Switzerland wherein an ethics panel, convened by the Swiss government has “opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong”.

How did this current bit of insanity come about?

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring “account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms.” No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” is enough to short circuit the brain.

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily.”

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer’s herd–the report doesn’t say). But then, while walking home, he he casually “decapitates” some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can’t agree why. The report states opaquely:

At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves.

Now I have always though of the Swiss as being practical, common sense people. But the ‘plant’s rights’ story is hardly more puzzling than this story about animal rights legislation apparently passed by the government.

Under a new Swiss law enshrining rights for animals, dog owners will require a qualification, anglers will take lessons in compassion and horses will go only in twos.

From guinea-pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a “social species” will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind.

The new regulation stipulates that aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and that owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light. Goldfish are considered social animals, or Gruppentiere in German.

The creator of this animal Utopia is the Swiss federal parliament, the Bundesrat, which adopted a law this week extending to four legs the kind of rights usually reserved for two. The law, which comes into force from September 1, is particularly strict over dogs: prospective owners will have to pay for and complete a two-part course — a theory section on the needs and wishes of the animal, and a practice section, where students will be instructed in how to walk their dog and react to various situations that might arise during the process. The details of the courses are yet to be fixed, but they are likely to comprise about five theory lessons and at least five sessions “in the field”.

The law extends to unlikely regions of the animal kingdom.

Anglers will also be required to complete a course on catching fish humanely, with the Government citing studies indicating that fish can suffer too.

The regulations will affect farmers, who will no longer be allowed to tether horses, sheep and goats, nor keep pigs and cows in areas with hard floors.

The legislation even mentions the appropriate keeping of rhinoceroses, although it was not clear immediately how many, if any, were being kept as pets in Switzerland.

Is someone tampering with the country’s drinking water?

What is rather frightening about all this is that if the Swiss can contemplate such laws can other Western countries be far behind? Animal rights/anti-use groups will certainly be using Switzerland as a model to follow.

It really does play right into the hands of the more extreme groups and individuals whose end game is not animal welfare or even animal rights, except as it relates to their philosophy that no-one should ‘use’ or ‘own’ animals. If you can make the ownership and care of animals so costly and so inconvenient you can discourage farmers from keeping livestock and individuals from having pets. You won’t get rid of it completely but in the long-term you can curtail it and activists will take every little bit they can – one step at a time.

You don’t think so? Look carefully at the firearm ownership laws currently in place in Canada, how they are administered and additional laws and regulations proposed on an ongoing basis. It works on the same principle.