Monday, July 28, 2008

Dion's leadership debt payoff still under review by Elections Canada

UPDATE: CP has replaced the story below, with this one, that states Dion's debt as as $560,000, not $800,000. It also includes a comment from Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre:

"The fact that Stephane Dion cannot commit to paying off his debts promptly shows that he is a weak leader who can't be trusted with the nation's finances," Poilievre told The Canadian Press.

He challenged Dion to "commit to Canadians that he will pay off all of his debts before the next election."

"If Mr. Dion goes into the next election with these debts hanging over his head, then Canadians will wonder about his fiscal competence."

Former Liberal leadership candidates to repay debts; Dion plan under review

OTTAWA — Elections Canada has accepted debt paydown agreements totalling nearly $1.4 million from eight Liberals who ran for the party leadership in 2006.

But Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand is still reviewing a paydown plan submitted by party leader Stephane Dion. Dion, whose debt from the campaign was recently reported at more than $800,000, had the largest outstanding obligations from the campaign.

Toronto MP Ken Dryden was next, with $300,000 in loans to repay, all to himself as the lender, by June 3.

Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff had a debt of $187,000.

Under federal election law, the candidates had 18 months to arrange paydown agreements acceptable to Elections Canada, or the debts would have been converted into campaign contributions.

It depends on what the definition of “public” is . . .

Elections Canada says decisions on Liberal leadership loans are now public – but you have to ask for them

Media Advisory

Status of Decisions on Liberal Leadership Contestants’ Claims and Loans

OTTAWA, Monday, July 28, 2008 — The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Marc Mayrand, has today made public the decisions made to date under the Canada Elections Act in regard to the authorization to make late payments on claims and loans of contestants for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2006.

All documents related to the Chief Electoral Officer’s decisions are public and are now available by contacting Elections Canada.

Elections Canada is an independent body set up by Parliament.

Elections Canada Media Relations
or at

The decisions do not seem to be posted on Elections Canada’s website. Perhaps they want to keep track of which media outlets are requesting them and may be doing stories.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Yorker Obama cartoonist is Canadian

Says best work comes from “crazy emotional morass”

Canadian media: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

As of 1:30 p.m., there were no hits on Google News Canada mentioning that cartoonist Barry Blitt – who drew the July 21st New Yorker cover currently burning up the blogosphere – is (or at least was) a Canadian, who went to New York in 1989.

Here are some excerpts of an interview with Blitt, from an online profile in March of this year:

“I got a scholarship from Leo Burnett ad agency while I was at Ontario College of Art, between my third and fourth year. I didn’t even know what it was for, I just entered it and I got it and I worked at Leo Burnett as a visualizer for my fourth year at college. I hated advertising; it was demeaning. I mean, they’d ask me to draw lettuce and then ask me to make the lettuce look crispier. That wasn’t for me.

“After school ended I went to England. There was so much great work coming out of London at the time, and I thought I would go there and get inspired by that and maybe I’d find my style or my niche there. But when I brought my portfolio around, I stupidly went to Leo Burnett there, too. And they offered me a job doing the same thing I had done in Canada and I took it because I didn’t know anyone in England. So I was drawing crispy lettuce and stuff like that, and I hated it. I worked there for about a year and then came back to Canada and somehow started bringing my work around and just did my bit.

“I had one style that was sort of black and white charcoal that was serious and then there was the crazy stuff in pen and ink. More and more the pen and ink seemed to be favored and I could put some humor in that, but at first it was all little spots and Canadian Business Magazine and stuff that. Some of it was just so bad. I didn’t even care. Sometimes I just don’t care. I’ll work on something and I just won’t want to be doing it, and I’ll have a bad attitude. I’m trouble: you have to stay away from me.

“I don’t think I necessarily choose my assignments well. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Some of these people, they don’t want you to say no. But it’s really important to choose the right things for yourself.

“Back then I had more time to do self-generated projects and stuff. I remember I was doing these crazy biographies of my heroes, just one page each, anyone from George Washington, to Gustav Mahler, to Stravinsky. I did a whole series of those and they were fun and I didn’t care. I think part of the not caring thing is I have to sort of fool myself into not caring about a drawing. I do my best work when I’m not thinking about it, when I’m not worried about it. So any New Yorker cover I do, it’s just a crazy emotional morass. I’ll draw it seven or eight times and I’ll start painting each one, and this one’s better than the other one, and then I’ll go back to the first one (the first one is always the best one). I still haven’t learned to let myself make mistakes and that’s where the best stuff comes in.

Blitt was named in a lawsuit by Conrad Black, over an illustration in Toronto Life magazine in 2004. The suit was later settled.

There is no mention of Blitt’s Canadian origins in the stories posted at The Star, the Globe, Maclean’s, the CBC, or CTV. To be fair, most are only posting the US-produced Associated Press copy. But they can add their own stuff to AP copy, and even I remembered Blitt’s name and that he is Canadian.

9:20 p.m. Update: Alison Smith just delivered CBC’s very Obama-friendly story on the National. No word on Blitt’s nationality.

11:27 p.m. Update: CTV National News ran their Obama-sympathetic story at the end of the broadcast. The lead-in and story mentioned the “Canadan-born artist” but did not name him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Of all the Maclean’s issues in all the world . . .

They have to publish one of my web comments in their Morgentaler edition

This was my comment on a recent Maclean’s Health Blog item by Alexandra Shimo, on how sitting down can make you fat:

So THAT’s why federal Liberal MPs are looking a little flabby lately. Not standing up to vote in the commons.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

My wisecrack (no pun intended) has been republished on page 4 of the July 21st issue of Maclean’s as “Reader Comment of the Week” -- the one with Order of Canada recipient Henry Morgentaler on the cover. Good for me, I guess.

The ironic thing about this is that I myself am sadly a few dress sizes past “flabby.” But I’m sure my former client, the Government House Leader, would appreciate that I was on message vis à vis the Liberals’ habit of sitting down for Canada.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bliss: Morgentaler’s OC file was reopened several times

Whatever you think of abortion, this is yet another episode of "The Judiciary Knows Best"

What do I always tell you, kids? The most important parts of the newspaper are (1) the corrections, and (2) letters to the editor. Here’s historian Michael Blissletter to the Post today on Morgentaler’s OC:

As a Member of the Order of Canada, I am deeply saddened by the way that our honours system is apparently being debased and cheapened by appointments such as the Henry Morgentaler one. Those of us who occasionally nominate worthy people for consideration for the Order have been told repeatedly that if they have been considered and rejected on an earlier occasion, the files are not normally reopened. I cannot understand why the Morgentaler file was apparently reopened on several occasions.

If the Order of Canada’s advisory committee, meeting behind closed doors, continues to make divisive, apparently political recommendations, it will undermine the integrity of the Order and further discourage those of us who tried to help make the system work. I am particularly distressed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is involved in a process the trustworthiness of which many of us now question.

Michael Bliss, Member of the Order of Canada, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Toronto.

This confirms what Order of Canada scholar Christopher McCreery hints at in this op-ed in the Globe:

Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated to receive the Order of Canada numerous times over the past 25 years, before supporters organized a nomination campaign earlier this year. But members of previous Advisory Councils – the committee of 11 people, chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada, advising governors-general on appointments – have steered clear of pushing his nomination forward because it was viewed as highly divisive and potentially damaging to the prestige associated with membership.
--"Does the Order of Canada stand for unity or recognition?," Christopher McCreery, Globe and Mail, July 2

Continuing with the fallout, a B.C. priest has returned his OC, and prominent Bay Street figure Thomas Caldwell (pictured) has reportedly removed his OC lapel pin:

A Catholic priest in British Columbia is returning his Order of Canada after Dr. Henry Morgentaler was named a member, calling the controversial abortion doctor’s induction into the Order “a terrible mistake.”

Father Lucien Larre, who was inducted into the nation’s highest order in 1983 for his work with troubled youth, said in a news release yesterday that he felt “compelled in conscience to return my Order of Canada.”

The priest, based in Coquitlam, B. C., said he did not want to show disrespect to the Governor-General or to condemn Dr. Morgentaler, but added, “I believe in my heart that he is horribly wrong and the advisory committee made a terrible mistake.”
--”B.C. priest gives back his Order over Morgentaler,” National Post, July 3

As the media have reported, Larre was pardoned for prior convictions of assault and offering a noxious substance:

He said the assault charge stemmed from an incident in 1974, when he slapped a 19-year-old woman trying to have an affair with a 14-year-old boy under his care. The other change came from an incident when he and a nurse told three teenagers to consume various unidentified vitamins, sugar pills and placebos in an effort to teach them about drugs.
--"Priest critical of Morgentaler has controversial past,"

At my age, and with my middling skills, I have not been graced with the time or talent to have attained such a prestigious award. But if I had, and if the same folks who honoured me then chose to celebrate a man for snuffing out little lives, I like to think I would waste no time in telling them where to stick their snowflake. I was proud that my father removed his own hard-earned Order of Canada immediately upon hearing of Morgentaler’s accolade.
--”Every child a gift from God,” Theo Caldwell, National Post, July 3
Given that there are more than 5,000 OC members, we probably haven’t heard the last of these. McCreery makes the same prediction.

My own views on abortion are conflicted, and I’ve never blogged about them. My initial reaction was that Morgentaler’s OC is consistent with what the Order of Canada has become, and I was surprised he had not been recognized earlier.

Though Bliss’ comments above might fuel a paranoiac view that this was deliberately timed to occur during Stephen Harper’s tenure, it is more likely that Justice McLachlin cracked the whip due to Morgentaler's age and health:

The sources said Chief Justice McLachlin drove the nomination, which was opposed by the two government members on the nine-member committee, Privy Council Clerk Kevin Lynch and deputy heritage minister Judith LaRocque.

Dr. Morgentaler has been nominated for appointment to the order several times before, but was rejected.

But at 85, and having recently suffered a severe stroke, there are concerns about his health. The honours are not made posthumously.
--"Panel divided on crusader's nomination, vote suggests," Globe and Mail, July 3

Neverthless, I agree with the prime minister’s implication yesterday that this is a divisive decision. In that vein, McCreery poses this question:

Membership in the Order of Canada was never intended to be a source of controversy or discord. So we need to seriously consider the following question: At what point are we willing to sacrifice the unity of our national order so that recognition can be accorded to a single individual?

But McCreery's question is now moot. As on so many other occasions since Papa Trudeau granted us our court-proscribed rights in 1982, a judge has taken it upon herself to make our decision for us.

The Great Pumpkin has also posted on the OC.

So has Dr. Roy.

And Halls of Macadamia.

And Joanne (recommended).

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Anonymous and the Profane

Last night on the Globe’s thread on Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s OC, someone questioned why departing CAW president Buzz Hargrove was so effusive in his praise for Morgentaler (“I’m absolutely thrilled to be on the list at the same time as Dr. Morgentaler. I supported him. I supported his efforts. I think he's done more for half the population in this country … in terms of fighting for women's reproductive rights”).

Remembering Hargrove’s own unplanned parenthood, disclosed in his autobiography, I posted the following comment:

Here's a clue from Buzz's bio as to why he's such a Morgentaler fan:

“I did not have a girlfriend at the time and we began a relationship that got pretty serious. She ended up getting pregnant [yes, he really wrote that] and in December 1964 my first daughter, Karen was born.

“At the time, there was no way I was getting married. I was barely nineteen. I had no sense at all about what I wanted to do with my life.”
--Labour of Love, p. 53

This morning I received the following comment submitted to my own blog, with the expletives spelled out (which is why I couldn’t approve it):

Nice of you to bring up Buzz Hargrove's girlfriend’s abortion in a public discussion at the Globe on the Order of Candaa [sic] award to Morgentaler.

F****** c***. How about you come clean on the payola from the Harper government?

Well, “Anonymous,” if you do come back:

1. Read the excerpt again. She had the baby.

2. What’s your problem with quoting it? It was published in Hargrove’s autobiography (that means he wrote it himself).

3. Nice language.

4. My contract with the democratic reform ministry – which was for writing, not blogging – has run its course. But thanks for caring.