Shame on Joe Comartin

joe-comartin.jpgToday, Stephen Harper pick for Supreme Court Justice faces a Parliamentary ad-hoc committee and this reflects our Prime Minister’s election promise to bring more transparency and accountiblility to government.

Justice Marshall Rothstein must feel like a student that’s studied his whole life for this final exam. Except this exam isn’t one of those university finals worth 75%-100%, it’s more akin to one taken in high school worth 5%-10%. The Justice is already top of his class and barring some cataclysmic event, he’s already passed.

Enter Joe Comartin, the predicted spoiler of the whole affair. Comartin calls the process “a sham”, because, the reason he gives, is that it does not go far enough.

It really isn’t anything about accountability because obviously we as a committee have no control over this. We’re not even going to make a recommendation, as far as I know. — Joe Comartin, NDP MP

However, we all know that the NDP doesn’t even want to make a recommendation. In fact, they have already decried the entire process dismissing it as “American style”.

Yet, Mr. Comartin has tabled a motion planned to restrict the transparency of the process and may boycott the committee if it isn’t passed. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we call “American style filibustering” and being in relative opposition instead of principled opposition.

Indeed, Jack Layton spoke about making Parliament work for the “working Canadians” so one would predict that adding even an ounce (sorry, 28.3 grams) of transparency would be inline with the average working Joe Canadian instead of the legal elitism that Jack now seems to back. Before Stephen Harper, the SCC appointment process was restricted from “working Canadians” and was limited to the Prime Minister and a handful of legal advisors that met behind closed doors. Many people wouldn’t have pegged Layton as an elitist, but perhaps that’s the Toronto NDP in him coming out.

UPDATE: Paul from BBS writes a letter to the editor regarding Joe Comartin’s regressive attitude.

It’s Rothstein

Today Stephen Harper announced that his nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada will be Marshall Rothstein. Rothstein was previously on the Federal Court of Appeal. I really like what Harper is doing with this new transparent process. Most Canadians likely can name more US Supreme Court justices than Canadian Supreme Court justices. This process will take a secretive elite selection process and open it up for all Canadians. This is our court so it’s good that we get to find out what kind of judge Rothstein is.

Here is his CV:

CURRICULUM VITAE

Personal and Education Information

  • Born December 25, 1940 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Educated at Winnipeg schools and University of Manitoba. B. Com. 1962, LL.B. 1966.
  • Called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1966.
  • Married June 12, 1966 to Sheila Dorfman of Montreal, four children, Ronald, Douglas, Tracey and Robert and two grandchildren.

Practice Information

  • Associate Thorvaldson, Eggertson, Saunders and Mauro, 1966-1969
  • Associate Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson 1969-1972
  • partner Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson 1972-1972
  • Member and periodic Chairman of Management Committee/Executive Board 1981-1992.
  • Appointed Q.C. 1979.
  • Practised in the areas of Administrative Law and Litigation, primarily Transportation and Competition Law, Labour and commercial arbitrator.
  • Adjudicator, Manitoba Human Rights Act 1978-1983.
  • Member, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal 1986-1992.
  • Appeared before
    • federal and Manitoba Administrative Tribunals
    • Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench
    • Court of Appeal, Federal Court of Canada – Trial and Appeal Divisions
    • Supreme Court of Canada.

Teaching Information

  • Lecturer, Transportation Law, University of Manitoba, Faculty of Law 1970-1983, 1988-1992.
  • Lecturer, Contract Law, University of Manitoba, Extension Department 1970-1975.
  • Bar Admission Course Lecturer, Law Society of Manitoba 1970-1975.

Legal Aid Information

  • Secretary (Administrator), Civil Legal Aid Committee, Law Society of Manitoba 1968-1970.

Commissions of Inquiry

  • Chairman, Commission on Compulsory Retirement (Manitoba) 1981-1982.
  • Chairman, Ministerial Task Force on International Air Policy (Canada) 1990-1991.

Committee Participation Information

  • Member, Manitoba Transportation Industry Development Advisory Committee 1985-1987, and Chairman 1987-1990.
  • Member, Airports Task Force 1985-1986.
  • Member, Airports Transfer Advisory Board 1988-1992.
  • Member, External Advisory Committee, University of Manitoba Transport Institute 1989-1992.

Judicial Career

  • Judge of the Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division and member ex officio Appeal Division June 24, 1992 to January 20, 1999. (Rulings: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)
  • Appointed Judge of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada October 29, 1992. (Rulings)
  • Judicial member of the Competition Tribunal May 31, 1993 to January 20, 1999. (Rulings)
  • Appointed Judge of the Federal Court of Canada – Appeal Division, January 21, 1999. (Rulings: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • Appointed Member of Committees and Special Committees (NAFTA) Regulations, November 15, 2004.

NOTE: With the coming into force, on July 2, 2003, of the Courts Administration Service Act, the appeal and trial divisions of the Federal Court of Canada became separate entities known as the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. At that time, Mr. Justice Rothstein became a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal.

So… the big question remains… what do you think?

UPDATE: In perhaps his most famous ruling:

“In addressing the question of whether the transgenic offspring of a transgenic animal were patentable, Mr. Justice Rothstein noted that most inventions involve some use of the laws of nature. Thus, the mere fact that the laws of nature play a role in the development of the invention does not prevent it from being patentable. In this case, human intervention was needed to create the first transgenic animals. The fact that these animals, once produced, can reproduce to create transgenic off-spring does not render them unpatentable. The off-spring exist due to a human-controlled process (the creation of the first transgenic animals). The fact that nature also plays a role in the creation of transgenic animals does not detract from the key role of human intervention. Thus, transgenic animals and their off-spring now appear to be patentable subject matter in Canada.”

UPDATE: So who is Marshall Rothstein? Well, it looks like he’s our next SCC Justice since the Liberals won’t be able to provide much opposition to his appointment during the ad-hoc committee hearing. Irwin Cotler is the head Liberal on the committee and was the chief drafter of Harper’s shortlist. Furthermore, Rothstein was appointed to the Federal Court by Mulroney’s government and to the Appeals Court by Chretien’s government. Besides, Rothstein’s cadidacy was highly scrutinized by a process that included members of all parties. We know that Rothstein comes with high praise from the Liberal and Conservative parties. Will the NDP and Bloc endorse Rothstein?

If the NDP views the opposition of the candidate as futile, will they oppose the process?

Some thoughts about the judicial nominee

I really think that Stephen Harper is reaching out past the 36% of voters that gave him a minority mandate on January 23rd. Those who know him say that he’s all about the long game and that while he’s a “policy wonk”, he calculates each move.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with this novel approach to appointing the Supreme Court, while Harper is not changing the process constitutionally, he is certainly adding more transparency to the process. This is the same kind of transparency that the Conservatives campaigned on during the brutally long winter election and it’s the same transparency that a recent poll described as the #1 issue of Canadians post-election.

Of course, I assume that our knee-jerk NDP friends will decry that we’re “spiraling towards an American system”. Whether it trends towards an American system, English system, French system or Japanese system, I don’t care because it seems that a system that encourages transparency would be very important to the NDP (especially since they campaigned on “Ed Broadbent’s 7 point plan for saving Parliament and making waffles”)

We’ll see if the NDP wants to “make Parliament work” for “working people” or will we see the NDP resist a change which would take the SCC appointments from a secretive elite process to one that all Canadians can access. If they resist against the process, we’ll know that it’s partisan because it certainly shouldn’t represent their principles. Hopefully we won’t be seeing a lot of NDP motions trying to block this novel transparent process.

The Liberals should be pretty much on board. I saw on clip on CPAC that interviewed the former Justice Minister by phone and he pretty much endorsed the whole process. It’ll be difficult for the Liberals to oppose the process. They aren’t even likely to oppose the nominee either since they drafted the short-list of nominees.

Hopefully this is one step of many where the Prime Minister makes the Parliamentary process (and PMO power) more transparent for all Canadians.

UPDATE: Here is the list of members on the ad-hoc committee:
CPC
Vic Toews – chair
Diane Ablonczy
Daryl Kramp
Daniel Petit
Rob Moore

LPC
Sue Barnes
Hon. Irwin Cotler
Anita Neville
Hon. Stephen Owen

Bloc
Real Menard
Carole Freeman

NDP
Joe Comartin

SCC Nominees to face public hearings

In his continued efforts to make a case for a majority government to the people of Canada, Stephen Harper announced today that he will make the appointment process of Supreme Court justices more transparent.

The Judicial Survivor will be immune to even the most partisan criticism during the process as the short-list of candidates was submitted by the previous Liberal government. Is this a mollifying gesture by the PM to gain more trust among those electors who may yet hand him a stronger mandate?

The process continues in the evolving tradition of the Conservative Party’s consultatively autarchic approach to PMO power. (Senate elections to follow?)

A parliamentary committee will be formed consisting of twelve Members of Parliament submitted by Wednesday (no party shall form a majority on committee). The committee will be free to ask questions of the nominees and the public will be free to watch the proceedings (and submit questions and concerns to MPs).

While the Prime Minister ultimately has the final say, Mr. Harper is opening the process (and ultimately his decision) to public scrutiny. Within the framework of our current political system, this is a good step towards reform.

Freedom is not exclusive

When did we lose our nerve in the worldwide progression towards freedom? To be sure, in our self-anointed paragonal society, the controversy over the Muhammad cartoons has even made us introspective about our own fundamental freedoms.

The University of Toronto’s student newspaper The Strand is the latest to wade into the controversy. Not because they republished the cartoons but because they inked their own. In a poll on their website, a full 50% of respondents said that The Strand should not have published the cartoon because it is “offensive”. Most of these respondents would probably quote a socially tolerant worldview towards Islam as the root of their intolerance. Let’s skip over to a current poll running over at the University of Notre Dame concerning the Vagina Monologues. When asked whether or not one would be attending the theatre event, a plurality (44%) of respondents at this Catholic Midwestern university responded, “No, I don’t support them”. Contrast what some would call a “socially progressive presentation” at a socially conservative institution with what that members of that same group would call what the UofT newspaper has done on a “socially progressive” campus. What does vexing about vaginas and the mocking of Muhammad have in common? The answer is that the principles of our society, namely free speech and freedom of the press, easily defends them both.

But it is the troubling response against these very freedoms that should offend everyone. If Charles Darwin penned The Origin of Species today would editors refuse to publish excerpts from the controversial text in order to prevent the angering of fundamentalist Christians? If a modern Martin Luther had published the 95 Theses in a blog, would German embassies be burned across the “Catholic World”? More troubling is to ponder if the press would be successful in sheltering the population from these transformative messages. In the case of the Muhammad cartoons, the message is hardly transformative, yet the defiance of organizational dogma certainly is.

We have learned that the anger sparked by the cartoons in predominantly Islamic countries has been fueled by the governments of the particularly anti-Western nations of Iran and Syria. Perhaps one day women in these countries will be able to perform the Vagina Monologues and enjoy other freedoms of expression.

Why is it that in our true social progression that has protected individual rights from institutional dogma (whether religious or secular) do we find ourselves in the current situation where we do not afford the same to our Muslims friends?

While the students at the University of Notre Dame have the right not to be interested in the Vagina Monologues, every last one of them should at least support the principle of the presentation: the practice of free speech for a formerly marginalized group in society so that they may, in effect, have freedom. Back in Toronto, the students at the University of Toronto should be cautious not to confuse their desire to respect what they perceive to be a marginalized religion/people with the sheltering of them. Are the well-meaning progressives that wish to limit press freedoms in order to prevent hurt feelings rather patronizing a group instead of respecting it?

What’s your role?

Perhaps most surprising to outsiders concerning the surprise defection of David Emerson was the reaction of Tories to what observers in other parties would claim as a stealth coup. The Liberals were outraged, but the NDP seemed to be the most vocal about Emerson’s defection. Protests are building in BC, mostly due to the NDP candidate who would have the most to gain from a by-election which would see Emerson likely losing his seat to that party which ran #2.

The only thing that Tories find insulting about the Emerson affair was that it went against some of the core principles of the legacy Reform/Alliance parties which drafted policy concerning MP recalls and mused quite openly about the very topic of floor crossing. However in the real-world of Parliamentary practice, the actions of floor crossers such as Emerson and Stronach are perfectly within the bounds of legality.

After recovering from our principle-induced hangover, a second look at cabinet reveals that it’s not really all that bad. It’s actually quite good.

One realizes that Stephen Harper is reaching out to all areas of Canada whether it elected a Conservative or not. The Prime Minister is practising pragmatic politics and will end up gaining more from the two controversial cabinet appointments than he invested. If Emerson solves the softwood lumber trade dispute and if Michael Fortier, as a Quebecker, cleans up the ministry that so-enraged Quebeckers, Stephen Harper will take his minority and drive it towards offering a pan-Canadian majority to all Canadians. Pair success in these two portfolios with a 1% GST reduction, various income tax credits passed and the $1200 childcare credit, the Harper long-term majority government plan appears that it has been on track since day one.

Media pundits have noted that the “Harper honeymoon” with the media lasted about one hour. However, when one actually measures the concept, what exactly is the benefit of a “honeymoon” period with the press anyways? Harper’s government is only vulnerable to a majority of members from the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. The latter two would rather wait for a year or more to pass before facing the electorate again and the Liberals are currently on the long end of an uninspiring leadership election. If we are to believe in a “honeymoon period” with the press, it was only a matter of arbitrary time before the press would sour on Harper. The Prime Minister decided to make a controversial political investment (for high future dividends) at a time when the chattering classes were pre-occupied with the pomp and pagentry of the installation of a new government. We saw a somewhat similar move by the Conservative Party leader during the first few hours of the election; Harper unloaded the controversy of the party’s same-sex marriage position at the least damaging time and by doing so, the future Prime Minister was able to diffuse controversy early and at the most optimal time.

But as many have done, politics has been measured against principle and as conservatives, many of us immediately recognized the discrepancy between what we believe and what Harper did to advance the ‘big-C’ Conservative brand in Canada. Can purists only exist in opposition? Does pragmatism separate successful Prime Ministers from failures? We certainly find our roots in conservative philosophy, however the game of politics cannot be won on ideological purity.

While virtually everyone from the Reform tradition understood their uneasyness with Harper’s controversial cabinet picks, those who represent us in government have a role to speak out. They can do so in caucus for there they have a forum to voice their concerns directly to the source of their discontent. For those in the House of Commons, and for those that enjoy being in the position of governance, airing Conservative discontent to the media is neither pragmatic nor principled. If one argues that the people of Vancouver-Kingsway elected a Liberal, not a Conservative, then one could argue that the people of Halton elected a Conservative, not a maverick or an independent. Further, the Conservative caucus is 125 members strong. In caucus, everyone gets an equal opportunity to speak. In the media, the spotlight shines bright upon the maverick.

Yes, in our system, we elect individuals to represent our ridings in the House of Commons. We do not elect parties. For those outside of the conservative movement that have shown disgust with Emerson’s defection, they also show opportunism and intellectual dishonesty. The NDP has been arguing for their own flavour of electoral reform for quite some time and they prefer a system of proportional representation. A shift towards a PR system would move from our traditional system to one that emphasizes party over the individual. A variety of systems exist under the PR framework and most, if not all, do not give electors a direct choice concering the individual represents them. Most PR systems give party leaders more power in choosing representatives whether to run or to represent. Those that complain about Emerson the partisan have a weaker argument than those that complain about Emerson the man. After all, Emerson the man won a plurality of votes in our electoral system which emphasizes the individual over party on the ballot.

In the days after the Emerson defection, columnist Andrew Coyne remarked that the Blogging Tories were doing more to oppose Emerson’s electoral flip-flop than members of more liberally-partisan blogging groups. I wondered how Blogging Tories would evolve in the weeks leading up to and following Stephen Harper’s victory on January 23rd. Our blogroll represents a variety of conservative voices from libertarian to social conservative, from fiscal conservatives to neo-conservatives. How would the diversity of voices in this organization behave now that our political favourites had secured power? First, the Blogging Tories as an organization is accountable to no one political entity. As Blogging Tories, we are not elected and we represent nobody but ourselves as individual observers of politics. With that said, we certainly have our preference as to which party we’d like to govern this country.

Balancing both of these considerations, Blogging Tories is a group of individuals that may commend and criticize freely while by doing so, they promote the overall success of conservative politicians. Do we hurt the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper by speaking out against bad policy and bad judgement? Blogging Tories serves as a feedback mechanism that can finely adjust the evolutionary path of the party. Since we represent nobody but ourselves the media may sum up our representative opinions as such. When Garth Turner speaks out against Stephen Harper he does so with the weight of a 100,000 person constituency. While this constituency elected Garth Turner the man, he should appreciate the party in which he also sits. As an MP and as a Conservative member, Turner certainly has the right to make his discontent known but if he chooses to sit as a Conservative (with the support of caucus and the party) he should appreciate his other commitments. Blogging Tories represents a raw grassroots discourse of ideas which will ultimately help shape the policy and politics of the Conservative party and government of Stephen Harper. While Garth Turner represents his constituents, he should also be mindful of the role he plays as a colleague in the Conservative caucus.

Blogging Tories will continue to serve up grassroots opinion concerning conservative principles, our Conservative MPs will continue to represent constituents and the grassroots in caucus and the Prime Minister will measure these principles and integrate them into a pragmatic, principled and appropriate course of action. Stephen Harper was elected to lead our party and thus our party has chosen to allow him to give it direction. A party acting solely upon principles would seem to sail smoothly upon calm waters. However, in the choppy sea of Ottawa politics, a trusted and pragmatic rudder to guide the good ship Conservative is a necessity.

Cheney delivers speech then shoots a man

cheney-speech-cpac.jpgOn Friday at CPAC, US Vice President Dick Cheney gave a typical stump speech which including the usual topics such as the war on terror and US security and he made reference to the State of the Union address, particularly on the US dependence on oil. I was unable to procure tickets at the last minute and friends say that it was interesting to hear but seemed a little rushed. We’d later find out that Cheney was to soon depart to Texas to for an annual quail hunt with friends. Unfortunately, Mr. Cheney hunting group suffered an accident when the VP, when targeting a quail, peppered his friend Harry Whittington with shotgun pellets.

Mr. Whittington’s injuries aren’t life threatening and is currently recovering in hospital.

The AP reports on the story and it appears that the media’s practice of photoshopping news pictures that they don’t quite like continues to be policy.

ap-cheney-gun.gif
AP screenshot (Click to enlarge)

cheney-gun-2.jpg
Enlarged AP ‘photo’ (Click to enlarge)

cheney-gun-1.jpg
Photo with NRA logo (Click to enlarge)

It’s possible that it’s a funny angle thing, but line up the pictures yourself and look at the minor features.

At CPAC in DC

Today is day 2 at CPAC in Washington DC. It’s been quite a successful conference so far and I’ve met a lot of great people. Making the trip down to Washington however wasn’t as smooth. Yesterday, our Air Canada flight was delayed 2 hours in Toronto because of “mechanical problems”. They kept delaying the flight every 15 minutes and we suspect that they were only trying to merge two flights into one to save some money. The flight was enjoyable as well and we landed in DC and made our way to the conference/hotel immediately. While on the road to the hotel, Marine One flew over our cab not more than 75 feet above!

Day one involved a lot of wandering around from exhibit to exbibit and from talk to talk. I went to a seminar on blogging hosted by US Conservative superstar blogger Lashawn Barber. Lashawn details american blogging milestones in the general milestone sense but I was happy to see her make a mention of Captain Ed’s Adscam coverage later in her talk. After her seminar we chatted for a while and I filled her in on the rest of the Canadian blogstory thus far. We’ve planned to do a podcast sometime in the future.

I’ve bumped into a few fellow Blogging Tories at CPAC, specifically the lovely ladies of North American Patriot and Girl on the Right, who are also fellow bloggers at the Shotgun.

There are a lot of interesting exhibitors here including our old friends from Bureaucrash, brilliant third party grassroots support groups and even an interactive full flight similator of an F22 Raptor.

Day two involved being a tourist in DC as our crew saw the sights and made the walk from the Capitol building to the White House. Tonight, I’m attending a dinner where US Ambassor to the UN John Bolton will give a speech and our Canadian contingent will likely be going out for drinks with some of our new American friends. How diplomatic!

Evolution of the PM’s website

The Prime Ministerial website is accessible at http://pm.gc.ca and besides the changing of the guard over the years (from Chretien to Martin to Harper), the website has not really changed that much and still remains quite simplistic in its presentation and web standards. Click each image to enlarge.

pm-122196.jpg
December 21, 1996

pm-050398.jpg
May 3rd, 1998

pm-120500.jpg
December 5th, 2000

pm-121501.jpg
December 15th, 2001

pm-061004.jpg
June 10th, 2004

pm-020606.jpg
February 6th, 2006

The current version of the website, which features our new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is still quite antiquated by web standards. For example, the buttons on the left use simple javascript rollover functions instead of CSS.

harper-page2.jpg

Also, the website asks the user to submit their email address to subscribe for ’email updates’. Of course, email updates are still useful to many, however, enabling web 2.0 features on the website (especially RSS) would extend the website’s usefulness to many, many more users on a variety of platforms. Further, the Conservatives have been quite succesful in featuring podcasts on their main website at www.conservative.ca and on their youth-themed website at www.cpcenergy.ca. Mr. Harper’s speeches could be featured as audio or video podcasts on the PMO website.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigned on a platform of changing the way government works for all Canadians. A new, refreshed and modern web presentation of the Prime Ministerial website could help signal the Conservative drive for renewal.

UPDATE: www.stephenharper.ca goes to the PM’s official website. Years ago, I remember hearing about a news story in which a reporter asked then Prime Minister Jean Chretien what he thought about not owning his own domain name (it was snapped up by a cybersquatter). Of course, Chretien didn’t have a clue what the reporter was talking about.