October 23, 2006
Mark Steyn on "overpopulation" ...
Fear of too many babies is hard to bear
October 22, 2006
By: MARK STEYN Sun-Times Columnist
Last Tuesday morning, in a maternity ward somewhere in the United States, the 300 millionth American arrived. He or she got a marginally warmer welcome than Mark Foley turning up to hand out the prizes at junior high. One could have predicted the appalled editorials from European newspapers aghast at yet another addition to the swollen cohort of excess Americans consuming ever more of the planet's dwindling resources. And, when Canada's National Post announced "'Frightening' Surge Brings US To 300m People," you can appreciate their terror: the millions of Democrats who declared they were moving north after Bush's re-election must have placed incredible strain on Canada's highways, schools, trauma counselors, etc.
But the wee bairn might have expected a warmer welcome from his or her compatriots. Alas not. "Three hundred million seems to be greeted more with hand-wringing ambivalence than chest-thumping pride," observed the Washington Post, which inclines toward the former even on the best of days. No chest-thumping up in Vermont, either. "Organizations such as the Shelburne-based Population Media Center are marking the 300 million milestone with renewed warnings that world population growth is unsustainable," reported the Burlington Free Press. Across the country, the grim milestone prompted this reaction from a somber Dowell Myers. "At 300 million," noted the professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California, "we are beginning to be crushed under the weight of our own quality-of-life degradation."
I, on the other hand, was feeling pretty chipper about the birth of the cute l'il quality-of-life degrader. The previous day, my new book was published. You'll find it in all good bookstores - it's propping up the slightly wonky rear left leg of the front table groaning under the weight of unsold copies of Peace Mom by Cindy Sheehan. Anyway, the book - mine, not Cindy's - deals in part with the geopolitical implications of demography - i.e., birth rates. That's an easy subject to get all dry and statistical about, so I gotta hand it to my publicist: arranging for the birth of the 300 millionth American is about as good a promotional tie-in as you could get and well worth the 75 bucks he bribed the guy at the Census Bureau. But, even if you haven't got a book to plug, the arrival of Junior 300 Mil is something everyone should celebrate.
So why don't we? The answer is that too many people who should know better are still peddling the same old 40-year-old guff about "overpopulation." What does Professor Myers mean by "quality-of-life degradation"? America is the 172nd least densely populated country on Earth. If you think it's crowded here, try living in the Netherlands or Belgium, which have, respectively, 1,015 and 883 inhabitants per square mile compared with 80 folks per square mile in the United States. To be sure, somewhere such as, say, Newark, N.J., is a lot less bucolic than it was in 1798. But why is that? No doubt Myers would say it's urban sprawl. But that's the point: you can only sprawl if you've got plenty of space. As the British writer Adam Nicholson once wrote of America, "There is too much room in the vast continental spaces of the country for a great deal of care to be taken with the immediate details." Nothing sprawls in Belgium: It's a phenomenon that arises not from population pressures but the lack thereof.
As for other degradations the weight of which is so crushing to Myers, name some. America is one of the most affordable property markets in the Western world. I was amazed to discover, back in the first summer of the Bush presidency, that a three-bedroom air-conditioned house in Crawford, Texas, could be yours for 30,000 bucks and, if that sounds a bit steep, a double-wide on a couple of acres would set you back about $6,000. And not just because Bush lives next door and serves as a kind of one-man psychological gated community keeping the NPR latte-sippers from moving in and ruining the neighborhood. The United States is about the cheapest developed country in which to get a nice home with a big yard and raise a family. That's one of the reasons why America, almost alone among Western nations, has a healthy fertility rate.
Everywhere else, for the most part, they've taken the advice of Myers and that think tank in Vermont. In America, there are 2.1 live births per woman. In 17 European countries, it's 1.3 or below - that's what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility, a rate from which no society has ever recovered. Spain's population is halving with every generation. These nations are doing what Myers and the Vermont "sustainability" junkies would regard as the socially responsible thing, and having fewer babies. And as a result their countries are dying demographically and (more immediately) economically: They don't have enough young people to pay for the generous social programs the ever more geriatric Europeans have come to expect.
By the way, I wonder if any helpful reader would care to provide a working definition of "unsustainable." We hear it all the time these days. You can hardly go to an international conference on this or that global crisis without Natalie Cole serenading the opening-night gala banquet of G-7 finance ministers with a couple of choruses of "Unsustainable, that's what you are." Two centuries back, when Malthus warned of overpopulation, he was contemplating the prospects of a man "born into a world already possessed" - that's to say, with no land left for him, no job, no food. "At Nature's mighty feast," wrote Malthus, "there is no vacant cover for him." But that's not what Myers and Co. mean. No one seriously thinks 400 or 500 million Americans will lead to mass starvation. By "unsustainable," they mean that we might encroach ever so slightly onto the West Nile mosquito's traditional breeding grounds in northern Maine. Which is sad if you think this or that insect is more important than the developed world's most critically endangered species: people. If you have a more scrupulous care for language, you'll note that population-wise it's low birth rates that are "unsustainable": Spain, Germany, Italy and most other European peoples literally cannot sustain themselves - which is why, in one of the fastest demographic transformations in human history, their continent is becoming Muslim.
As a matter of fact, you don't have to cross the Atlantic to see the consequences of a loss of human capital: The Burlington Free Press would be better occupied worrying less about the 300 millionth American and more about the ever emptier schoolhouses up and down the Green Mountain State. I used to joke that Vermont was America's leading Canadian province, but in fact it's worse than that: demographically, it's an honorary member of the European Union.
The reality is that in a Western world ever more wizened and barren the 300 millionth American is the most basic example of American exceptionalism. Happy birthday, kid, and here's to many more.
© Mark Steyn 2006
Social Liberal vs Social Libertarian...
Sent: October 19, 2006 11:12:46 PM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) MP Garth Turner suspended
Interesting. I've always been a bit conflicted as to how to use the term socially liberal and especially the term socially left. To a non-political person, I'd likely say I am socially liberal, but I do see a distinction. For example, a social liberal would want to keep the state involved in marriage and define it as a union between two consenting adults or possibly more than two. Social conservatives would be the same except their definition would be a union between a consenting adult male and a consenting adult female. A social libertarian would want the state out of marriage altogether, but in absence of that option would choose the social liberal option. Another difference I see would be that social libertarians would place much less restrictions on free speech than social liberals or social conservatives would. Within a particular frame of issues, I see social libertarian and social liberal as the same, but I always thought of them as having some key differences.
On Turner. There were certainly things he did that I respected, like championing issues like income splitting - which could be solved via a flat tax, but he certainly can't say he was not warned. In short, I trust the Ontario caucus to have done what was best.
From: [person A]
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) MP Garth Turner suspended
[person B], I don't know who you speak to, but I use social libertarian and social liberal labels as synonyms.
On 10/19/06, [person B] wrote:
Why am I not surprised? And can anyone explain to me why so-called social libertarians always end up having social views which are no different than those of social liberals even though supposedly they are different somehow?
- [person B]
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 20, 2006 9:39:33 PM
Subject: (cyf-talk) explained
"The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as its not harmful. I can't see any way in the world that being a gay can cause damage to somebody else."
- Barry Goldwater
"We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny."
- Ronald Reagan
The parliamentary tradition has no rival...
'Hear, Hear!' -- Here?
Briton Would Like to Import a Loud Parliamentary Tradition
By Anushka Asthana - Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2006
P.J. Johnston, the British government's spokesman in the United States, describes the scene as "verbal jousting." Every Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair has to explain and defend his policies in front of a taunting mob of politicians in Parliament. The televised battle is a British tradition.
Johnston, who has worked in the United States for eight years, thinks Americans would like to have a similar show. "There is a great passion in this country for that combative element of British politics that is known as 'Prime Minister's Questions,' " he said in an interview at the British Embassy in Washington.
Johnson is in a better position than most to talk about the differences between the two governments. He has worked closely with both Downing Street and the White House, especially during meetings between Blair and President Bush, and has learned a huge amount about the U.S. government.
Johnston began working for the British government in 1989 when he joined the Northern Ireland Office. His efforts led to being awarded an Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to the peace process.
He recalled one example from his years in Britain to illustrate just how different the atmosphere in Parliament is from that in Congress. When he was private secretary to then-Security Minister John Wheeler, his boss took him into the House of Commons chamber, where Blair faces questions, and showed him two red lines marking where the government and the opposition sat.
"He explained that the distance between the two red lines is two sword lengths away. If they could not sort it out through debating, they took it outside," Johnston said, laughing. "The verbal jousting you see represents another age of combative politics."
The closest parallel in the United States is the pre-election series of presidential debates, Johnson thinks. "With the exception of set pieces like the State of the Union, the president does not have to actually face Congress," he said.
Bush is treated with more respect than Blair by politicians, the public and the media, Johnston said. While he called the U.S. media "dogged" and the opposition "robust," he said they are also "respectful of the position of being the president of the United States," a courtesy not always afforded to Bush's British counterpart.
Johnston has a theory about this attitude: "The president straddles the role of Tony Blair as head of government on one side and the queen as head of state on the other. The element of being respectful of questioning him relates to the queen element."
But Blair, Johnston said, has the benefit of being able to get his decisions implemented more quickly. The U.S. government has a very "healthy" system of making decisions that starts with a "huge inter-agency debate," he said. Once the president agrees on something, he has to work with Congress to pass it. In Britain, the prime minister is always the leading politician of the party that has a parliamentary majority, so he largely has "the ability to carry a decision through."
While the U.S. and British governments have differences in the way they operate - even for their senior civil servants, including Johnston, who are not allowed to be photographed - they also have some significant differences in opinion. "People constantly say we never disagree with the United States. It is true we are generally on the same page on foreign policy issues because we share common values in relation to peace, security and terrorism," Johnston said.
"But on other issues, like climate change, clearly ourselves and the federal government are not on the same page. But there is a lot of interesting things going on at state level that correspond to our interests." In August, Johnston traveled with Blair to the West Coast, where Blair "signed a major agreement with California - the fifth-largest economy in the world - on issues related to climate change," he said.
Similarly, voters in the United States and the United Kingdom do not always see eye to eye. "I think there are issues that are still live here that people feel deeply, deeply committed to, that for most Europeans are no longer an issue," Johnston said. "I find it interesting that the death penalty is still an issue in this country, because Europe has dealt with that. We oppose it. The issue of being pro-life or being pro-choice ... appears to be a live issue in this country, whereas I guess in most of Europe it is not."
As for his assignment here, Johnston said: "I love Washington, and it is a great city to be in. But the cauldron that is Westminster is very difficult to replicate anywhere else in the world."
Copyright 2006 - The Washington Post
A message for active conservative citizens...
Recently, the Conservative Government eliminated the unjust Court Challenges Program.
As you would expect, CUPE and its left-wing allies are fighting hard to reinstate the program.
Conservative bloggers have organized a blogburst in order to raise awareness, applaud the government for the move, and encourage readers to contact their MP's, Prime Minister Harper, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and Treasury Board Secretary John Baird.
In order to keep up the momentum, you are encouraged to do the following:
1. READ THE BLOGPOSTS.
You can find a list of posts at these two places:
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper: email@example.com
- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty: Flaherty.J@parl.gc.ca
- Treasury Board Secretary John Baird: Baird.J@parl.gc.ca
- Contact your MP. You can find the addresses here: http://webinfo.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E
- If you do not know who your MP is, you can search by postal code here: http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/index.asp?Language=E
3. FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL CONTACTS.
Ask them to do the same things - read the links, contact the politicians, forward to their contacts. Hopefully, this will show the proponents of reinstatement what they're up against, and maybe discourage them.
Please do this. There could be an election at any time. We have to make a show of force in case politicians are planning to pull the plug on the minority government. THIS PROGRAM MUST STAY DEAD.
Perserverance against all odds...
Young Republicans Now Flourishing At Liberal Berkeley
Campus Protest Taunts PETA With Hot-Dog Giveaway; An Anti-Antiwar Rally
By: PUI-WING TAM
October 20, 2006; Page A1
BERKELEY, Calif. - The University of California at Berkeley has been notable for firebrand leftist students like Mario Savio. The 1960s leader of the Free Speech Movement staged sit-ins on campus to demand students' rights to academic freedom and free speech. On a recent Thursday, one of the university's new generation of student leaders was playing with a life-size cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan.
"Elect Ronald Reagan," called out Josiah Prendergast, before unfolding the cutout on a grassy field on the Berkeley campus. After propping up the late Republican president, the 21-year-old reached into a bag and pulled out stickers and buttons featuring the slogans "Support Our Troops" and "Schwarzenegger: Protecting the California Dream."
A political-science major, Mr. Prendergast, a college senior, is serving his second term as president of the Berkeley College Republicans. Faculty, administrators and student-government officials all say the conservative organization, which has about 650 members, has become one of the campus's biggest student groups, outstripping its main rival, the Cal Berkeley Democrats.
On this day, Mr. Prendergast was busy recruiting college freshmen. He and some friends were attending "Calapalooza," an annual event at which new students sign up to join campus organizations. He figures the new blood could potentially help California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other Republican politicians.
"Don't be scared," Mr. Prendergast yelled out, as college kids walked by. "We don't bite."
The growth of the Berkeley College Republicans at one of the nation's most liberal campuses echoes some broader political trends. At Berkeley, while leftist students still dominate and outnumber conservatives, the liberal groups have splintered and are now spread across factions from the Cal Democrats to the International Socialist Organization to groups formed to oppose the war in Iraq. At the same time, several faculty members say, there are more conservative-leaning students than in the past, propelled by swells of patriotic feeling after events like Sept. 11 and an increase in the number of religious student groups.
The modus operandi of the Berkeley Republicans over the past few years has been to be provocative. In 2003, its members opposed affirmative action with an "Affirmative Action Bake Sale," where students paid for pastries on a sliding scale: White students were charged more, while Hispanics and African-Americans paid less. Under Mr. Prendergast's presidency, the group this year protested the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, by giving away hot dogs and encouraging students to eat meat. Mr. Prendergast also held an "Anti Antiwar Rally" in nearby San Francisco, and staged a "Dunk a Republican" contest. The group gets several thousand dollars a year from the Berkeley student government. It also does its own fund raising and will sometimes get donations from local Republicans and others.
The splashy tactics have sometimes aroused the ire of campus liberals. Scott Lucas, president of the Cal Democrats through last May, says the Republican club cheats on membership numbers because it doesn't charge dues as other student groups do. But Mr. Lucas acknowledges that the Cal Dems are now "a hair" smaller than the Republican club.
For Republicans, the ascendant Berkeley group is a cause for celebration. Dan Schnur, communications director for John McCain's 2000 presidential run and now a lecturer at Berkeley, often speaks to Republican groups around the state and talks about how the Berkeley Republican students have become a big student club on the liberal campus. "At first, the audiences are surprised, and then they're inspired," Mr. Schnur says. "It has a tremendous motivating effect" in mobilizing Republican voters.
The strength of the Berkeley Republican students is surprising given that the club barely existed in the late 1990s. A revival began in 2000, when several new students restructured the group to hold social activities as well as engage in political debates and attend Republican conventions. They also founded a conservative publication called the Patriot. To spread the conservative gospel, the club has set up a Web site, created an alumni database, regularly brings speakers to campus and holds weekly meetings.
When Mr. Prendergast enrolled at Berkeley in 2003, he quickly became active in the group and was elected its president in 2005. A grandson of the late Spalding G. Wathen, a land developer in California's Central Valley, Mr. Prendergast grew up in Fresno, in what he calls a "gospel family." The family was conservative - Mr. Wathen helped break a local plumbers union in the 1980s - and Mr. Prendergast followed the same ideology. He decided to go to Berkeley when he was rejected by his first-choice college, the U.S. Naval Academy. "I thought it'd be a fun challenge," he says.
Mr. Prendergast, who hopes to go to law school, has grand ideas for the club in his final year at Berkeley. Over the summer, he held an offsite retreat with his executive board to sketch out plans, including campaigning door-to-door and showing up at rallies for conservative politicians for the November elections. To raise funds, he is organizing an Oct. 28 golf outing. And to raise student awareness and beef up membership, the group recently staged a "Conservative Coming Out Parade."
Such tactics have helped Mr. Prendergast recruit students like Kevin Ligutom, who transferred to UC Berkeley from a junior college in nearby Hayward, Calif., in August. Mr. Ligutom, 21, isn't a Republican (he's registered as an independent voter) but was intrigued to find the conservative club on campus. After attending several of the club's meetings, he says he was impressed by the guest speakers the group brought in and how the group's members rallied to attend state Republican meetings.
"At their first meeting, they had a local Republican politician talk," says Mr. Ligutom. "And Josiah isn't just sitting around in a circle with everyone and complaining about things." Mr. Ligutom, who has since worked the phones for some Republican politicians along with the group, says he plans to remain active in the club.
Being a Republican at a liberal college isn't easy. Andrea Rasmussen, 22, an integrative biology and anthropology major who is a vice president of the club, says some fellow students once threatened to shoot her for her conservative beliefs. Mr. Prendergast, who also works as a local restaurant waiter, says some of his friends have been spat on and called fascists.
At the Calapalooza event, meanwhile, more freshmen were wandering by and picking up the club's fliers, which exhorted them to "Come Out of the Political Closet." Mr. Prendergast and Ms. Rasmussen, along with group treasurer Ben Chapman, answered questions and pitched the club as "a social outlet with conservative students." An hour into the event, they had signed up around 35 students. But they ultimately fell short of their goal of 150, netting around 100 registrations by the end of the three-hour event, with an additional 20 or so signups online.
During Calapalooza, held in late August, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau walked by. When he saw President Reagan's cardboard figure, the chancellor chuckled and stopped to talk.
"I gave an interview to a British newspaper recently, and the journalist asked me about Berkeley's liberalism," said Mr. Birgeneau to the group. "I had to tell him that the largest student political group on campus is Republican. You should've seen him: He was so disappointed."
Write to Pui-Wing Tam at pui-wing DOT tam AT wsj DOT com
Copyright 2006 - The Wall Street Journal
Bob Rae, every Tory's dream...
Rae would do best against Harper, poll says
Ignatieff comes second, Dion third and Kennedy fourth against PM
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
Former Ontario premier Bob Rae would be the best potential prime minister the Liberals could choose to take on Stephen Harper, says a new poll on national politics.
Although Mr. Harper is seen as the best prime minister when put up against any of the four leading contenders for the Liberal mantle, it is Mr. Rae who would make the greatest mark against him, according to the survey by The Strategic Counsel for the Globe and Mail-CTV News.
When Mr. Rae is figured into a race against Mr. Harper, the NDP's Jack Layton and the Bloc Québécois' Gilles Duceppe, 26 per cent say Mr. Rae would be the best prime minister of the four, while 36 per cent picked Mr. Harper. Mr. Layton was picked by 15 per cent and Mr. Duceppe by six per cent.
By comparison, the front-running Michael Ignatieff, was chosen by 23 per cent in a battle against Mr. Harper, who was picked by 37 per cent in such a contest.
More National Stories:
Ignatieff's Quebec strategy fraught with risk
Mr. Layton is favoured by 17 per cent and Mr. Duceppe by seven per cent.
Of the other two main candidates, Stéphane Dion and Gerard Kennedy, 21 per cent would pick Mr. Dion over the others and 17 per cent would opt for Mr. Kennedy.
Perhaps most interestingly, criticisms that Mr. Rae would do worse in Ontario than his counterparts appear to be at least somewhat checked by the poll, which shows that 29 per cent of Ontarians believe Mr. Rae would be the best prime minister, well higher than the 22 per cent who picked Mr. Ignatieff and the 20 and 21 per cent, respectively, who picked Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Dion, respectively.
"It puts to the test - or to the lie - the notion that Rae carries the most baggage in the province of Ontario and that his five years as premier makes him unacceptable," said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.
"In point of fact ... he's slightly more acceptable than the other candidates."
By contrast, Mr. Ignatieff was most highly favoured by Quebeckers, 28 per cent of whom said they would pick him first among the other three party leaders.
Mr. Rae had 25 per cent of Quebeckers, Mr. Dion 24 per cent, and Mr. Kennedy 14 per cent.
Among Quebeckers, Mr. Rae, Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Dion are all seen as better prime ministers than Mr. Harper.
"The important thing here in the province of Quebec is just how far Harper has fallen," Mr. Gregg said. He noted that questions on who would make the best prime minister almost always favour incumbents.
Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Dion finished first to fourth in the recently completed delegate selection meetings. The leadership will be decided in early December.
The survey, conducted between Oct. 12th and 15th, polled 1,000 Canadians and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Copyright 2006 -The Globe and Mail
The last thing we need is another Trudeau...
CANADIANS have seen it before: an outsider to politics with glittering academic credentials throws his hat in the ring for the Liberal Party leadership and is the surprise winner. It happened for Pierre Trudeau in 1968. Can it now happen for Michael Ignatieff?
Mr Ignatieff made his name as an academic and writer in Britain before becoming the director of Harvard University's centre for human-rights policy. Since offering himself as a candidate in the leadership race, to be decided at a convention in December, he has been much compared to Trudeau, prime minister for all but nine months between 1968 and 1984.
Both were controversial as intellectuals. Both were articulate, attractive to women, and caused a stir that went well beyond Liberal Party ranks. Mr Ignatieff may even have taken lessons from Trudeau, for whom he once worked as a campaign organiser.
But the differences are more telling. For all his youthful globetrotting, Trudeau spent his adult life working in Canada, and served as a member of parliament and a cabinet minister. He may have been little known outside the universities of Quebec when he went for the top job, but he was not inexperienced.
Mr Ignatieff lived outside Canada almost continuously from 1978 to 2005, when he returned to stand for parliament in last January's general election. His political apprenticeship is being served in the unforgiving glare of the media spotlight.
His long absence from Canada lays Mr Ignatieff open to the charge of being out of touch with public sentiment. Most Canadians opposed the war in Iraq, which he initially supported. "Ignatieff's stand on Iraq is his Achilles heel," says Peter Donolo, a pollster who worked for Jean Chrétien, a former Liberal prime minister. It aligns him too closely with Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, as well as with George Bush. Mr Ignatieff's proposal to give Quebec special status boosted his fortunes there but fell flat with Canadians elsewhere, who are tired of decades of constitutional wrangling.
Even so, Mr Ignatieff's campaign has garnered him the support of almost 30% of the delegates to the leadership convention. Bob Rae, who was premier of Ontario when a member of the social-democratic New Democrats, has 20%. Gerard Kennedy, a former minister in that province, and Stéphane Dion, a former environment minister (with a dog named Kyoto), are close behind. The delegates' votes are committed only for the first ballot, so any of the top four could emerge as the winner.
Much will depend on whether Mr Ignatieff cures his current bout of foot-in-mouth disease. He is used to nuanced argument. That does not work well in politics. Earlier this summer he said that he was not losing sleep over Lebanese civilians killed by Israeli bombs. That caused an uproar. This month, he seemed to change his mind, saying the bombing appeared to be a war crime. Both comments were snippets of a longer discussion. Reduced to soundbites, the first sounded callous and the second like a flip-flop.
John Manley, a former Liberal cabinet minister and once a leadership contender, says Mr Ignatieff made two mistakes in his comments. He talked about foreign policy, in which votes can only be lost, not won; and he managed to antagonise both sides in the conflict by reversing himself. In academia, it is appropriate to see every side, says Mr Manley. In politics you have to take a stand. Trudeau knew that instinctively. Mr Ignatieff still has to learn.
Copyright © 2006 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group.
All rights reserved.
Some background info for the debate below...
Turner points to backroom boys for suspension from Tory caucus
By: JENNIFER DITCHBURN
Wed Oct 18, 7:35 PM ET
OTTAWA (CP) - Clues that things might not be going swimmingly in Garth Turner's fishbowl life first surfaced about a month ago in the candid Internet blog he shares with constituents and political junkies about the trials of a maverick in Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
"I encountered a challenge within my own caucus that I can only describe as shattering," the Ontario MP wrote cryptically at the time. I wish I could get it off my chest, but that cannot happen."
Fast-forward to Wednesday: that challenge morphed into Turner being frog-marched from the Conservative caucus.
On his way out the door, he cast dark allegations at the prime minister's campaign wizard and a government that came to power insisting on a new era of openness was rebuffing allegations that it smothers its MPs' attempts to speak freely.
The outspoken Turner was suspended indefinitely from his caucus by his fellow Ontario MPs.
The official reason was difficult to discern. A number of Ontario Conservative MPs scurried, bolted and sprinted in another direction when they were asked about the incident.
It was suggested that Turner broke caucus confidentiality rules on his Internet blog.
But Turner, and at least one other caucus colleague, believe his ouster have more to do with his occasional criticism of party policy and thin-skinned party brass that do not countenance dissent.
"Is my leaving caucus a shot across the bow? Yeah, Of course it is," an unrepentant Turner told reporters. "Will it perhaps make other people think twice? Perhaps it will. That would be regrettable, to think twice of speaking up or representing their constituents. That would clearly be too bad."
Over the past month, his fellow Ontario MPs had been complaining about what they saw as Turner's Internet indiscretions. Turner says he discussed the concerns of various MPs head-on over the past weeks.
He points to two issues in particular that seemed to rub some colleagues the wrong way: his insistence that the government deal forcefully with climate change, and his proposals in support of income-splitting among Canadian couples.
But he says he was never told it had anything to do with breaches of confidentiality.
The Ontario caucus had an extraordinary visitor in the moments before Turner's expulsion. Doug Finley, the party's director of political operations - the same man who tried to block the riding nomination of local Ottawa Conservative Alan Riddell - made an extremely unusual appearance at the meeting. Riddell is now suing the party.
MPs discussed the pros and cons of suspending Turner and then voted to toss him.
"This decision was not taken lightly. It has been brewing for quite some time," explained Ontario Caucus chairman Gord Brown.
"Caucus confidentiality is an important thing for our caucus. It allows us the ability to discuss issues within the caucus and there had been breaches of caucus confidentiality."
The decision then passed on to the party's national caucus meeting mid-morning. There was no vote - MPs unanimously decided they concurred with the decision of the smaller committee.
The actual breaches of confidence were never spelled out, Turner said. But he was prepared to suggest where the order to boot him might have originated.
"I can't answer the question as to why this happened now. I would certainly recommend you might want to talk to Doug Finley, director of political operations for the Conservative party, to shed some light on that."
He also noted that he'd had a difficult relationship with the prime minister's office since the Conservatives took power, particularly after he openly criticized the move to embrace floor-crossing cabinet minister David Emerson to the Tory fold.
More recently, he has argued against re-opening the same-sex marriage debate and in favour of tougher gun laws. Both of those positions put him in direct conflict with the prime minister.
In the aftermath of the Dawson College shootings last month, he mentioned that Harper had spoken about the issue in caucus. Was that a breach of confidentiality? No specific instances were given by party spokespeople.
Ontario MPs and other Conservatives who were asked to comment on why they had supported the move rushed past reporters Wednesday, saying they had nothing to say about the matter.
That level of secrecy worries outspoken Conservative Senator Anne Cools, who herself has been yanked from three Senate committees in recent months.
She said she was ashamed and disappointed by the suspension, and says that a secret caucus meeting should not be used to undertake an expulsion - something that should only happen for the most "reprehensible behaviour."
"One cannot rely on secrecy to conceal punitiive actions, or to conceal wrong actions or bad actions," said Cools, who has not set foot in a caucus meeting since the summer.
"If one sets out to punish there has to be a clear process - look at the humiliation and embarrassment he's been put through today."
The news of the suspension was music to the ears of the Liberals, who were already riding high on new polling numbers that suggest they are neck and neck with the Conservatives.
"One thing we've seen about this government and this prime minister is tremendous reluctance to accept criticism, even when its constructive, from his own troops."
Graham did not rule out Turner possibly joining the Liberal caucus, while Turner said it's too early to consider such options.
Turner's departure leaves the standings in the Commons as follows: 124 Conservatives, 101 Liberals, 50 Bloc Quebecois, 29 NDP, 2 independents. There are two vacant seats.
Some debate on Garth Turner...
Sent: October 18, 2006 11:07:25 AM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Garth Turner Suspended...
A day that a lot of us grassroots Conservatives have been waiting for has finally come: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061018/turner_suspended_061018/20061018?hub=TopStories&s_name=
Garth Turner was suspended, as CTV reports today, from the Ontario Conservative, and national Conservative caucuses. The story is naming Garth's blog and his inability to keep meeting items confidential as the reasons why he was kicked out. Hopefully, regardless of whether he is allowed back in or not down the road, this will serve as a slice of humble pie for Garth. He's grown far too cocky since the days of his crusade to "return democracy to Halton," and needs to learn to be respectful to all views that are held within our party and to it's ways of doing buisness, even if he doesn't agree with them, if he wants to wear our jersey.
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 18, 2006 8:31:28 PM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Re: Garth Turner Suspended...
Oh yes, it's about time we Conservatives came around to the realization that this democracy business is too troublesome to put up with.
For the record, I also found that Garth could be irritating at times and I don't think that his approach was one that would make him eligible for cabinet. But unless you can prove that he was revealing secret info with the pure intent of harming the CPC (thus far, I've seen nothing. Rob Anders and Scott Reid could probably do more damage in their sleep), I think kicking him out of caucus was a harsh, unecessary and totally disproportionate response.
I find it quite amusing that you think the one of the best reasons for kicking Garth out of caucus for expressing his controversial views was "that he needs to learn to be respectful to all views that are held within our party." His views, of course, would be the exception. But by all means, let's kick out people who aren't respectful of all views held within the party. You could start with the PM, the P.M.O., half the cabinet, most of the National Council, a good portion of the caucus, etc. etc. etc.
When I read statements like that, when I see the self-proclaimed party of democratic reform crack down on people who try to live up to that ideal, and when I see the crap that's been going on recently in my own region of the country as various little cliques get their sniff of power and start screwing everyone else over in order to get in first, I come to the conclusion that ethically and morally, we are probably no better than the Liberals. I also realize more and more that it isn't hard work, commitment and experience that determines one's success in politics (whatever the party), but ass-kissing, connections, and being in the right place at the right time.
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 18, 2006 9:59:46 PM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) Re: Garth Turner Suspended...
Maybe you don't recall Garth musing how Christian activists (of which we have plenty in the party) are "flowers of evil." Garth defended his comments (and never apologized) by saying that the statement was from a French play, and taken out of context, but what kind of uproar would we hear if Stockwell Day ever suggested that homosexuals were "blind leading the blind," for example? If you make suggestive statements like that, expect flack. Turner also committed himself to breaking one of our party's 5 priorities in March, would constantly report on happenings as he heard about them, and if you really want damning evidence, check out Stephen Taylor's blog tonight! You know darn well that we celebrate a diversity of opinions in this party; Garth didn't and that's why I'm pleased to see him out now.
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 19, 2006 7:47:08 AM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Re: Garth Turner Suspended...
[unidentified persons], et al.
I just read Stephen Taylor's blog. The incident mentioned there is a very ambiguous one, (he essentially lets his constituents in on the super-secret info that there was an "audible sigh" in the caucus room when Jim Prentice announced how much money had been earmarked for Kelowna-related spending. He then went on to say that government lawyers and bureaucrats were pushing everyone to go ahead with that spending - not exactly an earth shattering revelation, as that's what any reasonable observer would expect them to do). Moreover, Garth apparently changed the post in question shortly thereafter, in order to comply with a request from the Party Whip.
I have yet to see any hard evidence that Garth breached confidentiality, leaked secrets on his blog, or otherwise spread information that was meant to harm the CPC. In fact, one could easily question to what degree there EVEN IS discussion of confidential gov't secrets in caucus, as from what we've seen of the Harper gov't, and the Harper opposition, the tendancy is that election platforms, major announcements, changes in policy, etc. will not be known outside the PMO/formerly OLO, and among a few key players until they are intended for general consumption by the public.
The definition of a maverick or renegade that I always had involved someone who frequently voted against the party line or someone who, like Larry Spencer or Carolyn Parrish, made statements that were so embarassing and destructive to the party, and so at odds with current policy, that they simply had to be expelled. Garth didn't do any of those things.
Sure, he could be critical at times, he went out of his way to emphasize his personal connection with his constituents over his loyalty to the party, he kept a blog in which points of view other than our own were discussed, but there is really nothing in what he has done or said that exceeds what used to be the norm in the Reform/CA, or what was the norm in the Clark/Mulroney PC's, and what is the norm in other representative assemblies worldwide, like the British Parliament (which has loads of Carolyn Parrishes and Larry Spencers that the party leaders can do bugger-all about), or the U.S. Congress.
Unless I actually hear a coherent argument otherwise (and for that matter I would like to hear a coherent argument as to why we decided to expel any M.P. when we have such a fragile minority), from the people who are actually responsible for the expulsion, the only thing I can conclude is that this was done because Garth bucked the the distinctly Canadian tradition of all powerful, autocratic Prime Ministers, parliamentary caucuses forced to submit to iron discipline, and political parties that value the ability to shut up and follow orders in a representative over free thought and loyalty to one's constituents. We are just as much a part of that tradition as the Liberals we used to criticize for doing the same.
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 19, 2006 9:28:42 AM
Subject: RE: (cyf-talk) Maverick MP Garth Turner suspended from Conservative caucus
This seems pretty clear:
From: [Name Withheld]
Sent: October 19, 2006 11:36:23 AM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Interesting Video
I'm not sure if anyone's posted this yet, but this is his response to what happened, before the press conference.
Stick it to those who would meddle in our everyday affairs!
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 7:05 AM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Capitalists, Libertarians, & fellow junk food junkies unite!
Online poll: http://www.ctv.ca/canadaam
Should all schools ban junk food?
How will kids ever learn to make the right decisions on healthy eating if they never make a decision in school until they are adults?!?!? While I support the promotion of healthy options, I think it's silly and excessive to ban "junk food."
From: [Person B]
Sent: October 18, 2006 3:45:52 PM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) Capitalists, Libertarians, & fellow junk food junkies unite!
At the same time, how can you expect children or teenagers to be responsible enough to make such decisions? That's like giving children the right to make the decision to drop out of school if they should so choose. They can't be trusted to make the right decisions yet. Ban the junk food.
From: [Person A]
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 4:05 PM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) Capitalists, Libertarians, & fellow junk food junkies unite!
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "[person B]" wrote:
>>At the same time, how can you expect children or teenagers to be responsible enough to make such decisions?
We do something that has become almost unheard of in schools - hang on to your hat - we TEACH them. If you don't think they're responsible enough to learn how to eat properly, then we may have good arguments for banning access to junk food everywhere always, for mandating that kids must always be driven to school, or supervised for every single second of the day, etc.
From: [Person B]
Sent: October 18, 2006 4:49:50 PM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) Capitalists, Libertarians, & fellow junk food junkies unite!
I just don't trust a kid to make the right nutritional choices on their own. When I look around, as well as at the statistics, I see rising obesity rates in all demographic groups, but ESPECIALLY amongst children. Don't you think that by giving them access to only healthy foods we will teach them to eat healthier in general? I agree that we should also be teaching them about eating healthy, but we should also be removing access to junk food in schools as well. It's in their best interest as well as in the interest of society. This problem is approaching the crisis point. Go to a school and look around.
From: [Person C]
Sent: October 19, 2006 8:48:45 AM
Subject: Re: (cyf-talk) Capitalists, Libertarians, & fellow junk food junkies unite!
When I read your first post, I consoled myself by hoping that you were joking, but since you clearly aren't...
I actually do go to schools and look around once a week, since I spend my Fridays volunteering in high schools. Do you know what I see? I see overweight kids, yeah, but I also see athletic kids, average-sized kids and borderline anorexic kids (who could stand to eat a couple bags of chips, quite frankly). It's pretty representative of the population, if you ask me.
The only way to ensure that kids are going to be healthy is to have parents - let me emphasize this - parents - teaching them from a young age what constitutes a healthy diet, and exposing them to as many different kinds of food as possible, and to teach them about proper portioning (which, in my opinion, is a much bigger cause of obesity than the presence of junk food in diets), and encouraging them to get out and exercise rather than just sitting in front of a TV or computer all night (although sometimes doing that is cool, too).
Of course kids can't be trusted to make good nutritional choices - that's why they're kids. But they're going to find a way to make bad choices (on just about everything, not just food), no matter what anyone tells them, be it the government, their teachers, or parents - that is why they're kids. And of course they're not always going to make the right choices, but hey, neither do adults.
Bad choices are how we learn. People are going to make them sooner rather than later, and the whole point of being a kid is about getting the big ones out of the way.
- [person C]
A good lesson on sticking to your principles...
A Tale of Two GOPs
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
October 16, 2006; Page A15
In the Ohio governor's race, Ken Blackwell is trailing his Democratic competitor, Ted Strickland, by double digits. Save a last-minute miracle, Mr. Blackwell will lose the governor's mansion, and so end 16 years of GOP dominance.
In the Florida governor's race, Charlie Crist is leading his Democratic competitor, Jim Davis, by double digits. Save a last-minute misstep, Mr. Crist is set to give the state GOP a third term in the governor's mansion, overseeing a strong Republican legislative majority.
Their respective failure and success is not ideological: Messrs. Blackwell and Crist are both running on the same agenda of tax cuts, fiscal responsibility and broad government reform. This, instead, is a story of the state parties behind them. In Florida, Republicans have spent the past eight years keeping their promises to voters; in Ohio the GOP forgot what "promise" meant somewhere in the '90s. The tale of these two GOPs offers broader lessons for congressional Republicans, who are facing a rout this fall.
That this election is a referendum on the entire Republican philosophy is the standard line so far this year. Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Chuck Schumer argue that voters who vote blue are sending a message that they are tired of Republicans' "extreme" views on national security, taxes or social policy.
Quite the opposite, really. If voters are unhappy with Republicans, it's because the party hasn't lived up to its own principles. In the Capitol, in Ohio, and in plenty of places between and beyond, the party that promised to reform government has become the party of government.
Take Ohio. Republicans have practiced one-party rule in the state since 1994 - more than enough time to lose one's principles. Former Gov. George Voinovich set the standard in 1992 by breaking his word and signing tax hikes. His successor, Bob Taft, with the help of the GOP legislature, in 2003 broke pledges not to raise taxes without voter permission. Some $3 billion in tax increases later, Ohio jumped to fourth place in the rankings for state and local tax burdens. (It was 23rd in 1994, when the GOP took over.) Over their first 10 years in power, Republicans increased Ohio's general operating budget by 71% - the highest increase in the nation.
The Taft and Spend strategy socked it to the Ohio economy. Its gross state product grew a measly 1% between 2004 and 2005, while Ohio lost 150,000 jobs between 2000 and 2005. Unemployment levels have hovered above the national average. If corruption is the product of big, unconstrained government, it was no surprise to watch the GOP engulfed by scandals that swept up everyone from Mr. Taft to Congressman Bob Ney. By November of last year, Mr. Taft's approval rating was 6.5%; if anyone had been keeping track, the legislature may have scored even lower.
Mr. Blackwell didn't sign onto any of this. While the rest of his party was riding down the big-government river, the secretary of state was pushing a voter initiative to create a constitutional limit on spending. He's been running this year on tax cuts, charter schools and privatizing the Ohio Turnpike. He hasn't been touched by the scandals.
"There hasn't been a bigger critic of the Taft administration than Ken Blackwell," says Ken Blackwell ... again and again. Voters can't find it in themselves to make the distinction. The Ohio Democratic Party understands that better than anyone, and routinely refers to its opponent as "Ken Taftwell." Mr. Strickland is so good at keeping the focus on the failed GOP, nobody has noticed he's a fan of the very tax-and-spend policies that landed Republicans in trouble in the first place.
But now look to Florida. Jeb Bush came to office in 1999 touting a sweeping reform agenda of the sort that gives Ms. Pelosi the "extremist" fits. More to the point, the governor, with the support of a Republican legislature, has instituted most of it.
Florida Republicans have passed tax cuts every year of the eight Mr. Bush has held office - a whopping $19 billion, including the elimination of the infamous "intangibles" tax, levied on investments. While Florida's budget has grown at a rapid clip, Mr. Bush vetoed more than $2.1 billion in wasteful spending, earning him the nickname "Veto Corleone" among frustrated state lobbyists. He's trimmed 11,000 state jobs.
Tort reform? Did it. Overhauling the child welfare system? Done. Florida has led the way in greater education accountability and school voucher programs; test scores, especially among minorities, are on the rise. The state won federal permission for the most dramatic Medicaid reforms in the country, the first to inject private competition into the system.
Florida today has the highest rate of job creation in the country, and an unemployment rate of 3.3%. It's bond rating hit triple A. Revenue is pumping into the state coffers, giving Florida $6.4 billion in reserves. Gov. Bush's approval rating stands at 55%. Even the House Democratic leader, Dan Gelber, admitted his chief nemesis was a "rock star."
Mr. Crist, the state attorney general, promises more of the same, and voters have no reason to doubt him. He's already demonstrated reform bona fides as the state education commissioner who helped push through the governor's school reforms. He's promised further tax cuts, and is zeroing in on voter anger over double-digit property tax hikes. Mr. Crist has been blowing past Mr. Davis in fundraising and in opinion polls.
If congressional Republicans are facing a rout come November, it's in no small part because they've been headed down the Ohio highway. A few Supreme Court appointments and tax cuts aside, Republicans have largely abandoned the reform agenda that swept them to power in 1994. Their zeal has instead been directed at retaining power, which explains the earmarking epidemic and the Abramoff corruption that followed. Reform of Medicare and Social Security, the death tax, immigration, health care - all fell off the map.
Democrats would certainly call this agenda extreme, but it was never the existence of the platform that angered voters. It was Republicans' failure to act on it.
Ms. Strassel is a member of the Journal's editorial board based in Washington.
Well, well, the NDP ain't always so righteous now, eh?
Sent: October 16, 2006 6:28:08 PM
Subject: (cyf-talk) Sask NDP lie on website.
From the Bourque link on the Wheat Board, the NDP caucus website has the following statement: "Do the Vast Majority of Farmers Support the Wheat Board Monopoly? They Sure Do! About 75% of Farmers Support the Canadian Wheat Board."
Read the survey summary. What the link says is that "Seventy-five per cent of farmers say a plebiscite or referendum among farmers is the most appropriate way to make fundamental changes to the CWB."
And then the actual support: "With regards to the so-called "dual-market," 47 per cent of respondents said they would prefer a system where private companies and individual farmers could compete with the CWB for wheat sales. This compared to 45 per cent who preferred the CWB single-desk system."