By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 24 2014
Naheed Nenshi Comes to Hamilton to Bedazzle Progressives & Pluck Brains
Plainspoken and outspoken Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi will be the keynote speaker for the second Ambitious City event Oct. 23, hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
“He is, as far as I’m concerned, the second-most popular politician in Canada, right up there with Justin Trudeau,” said chamber president Keanin Loomis, who worked for a year to bring Nenshi, a charismatic, yet self-described nerdy leader, to town. “He will bring a positive, progressive, urbanist message to Hamilton. He knows that quality of life contributes to economic development.”
City of Toronto chief planner and Hamilton native Jennifer Keesmat will moderate a Q&A with Nenshi at the event. She was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Ambitious City. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
In addition, he hopes to take some of McMaster’s best and brightest home with him.
Nenshi will be making a pit stop at the university on Thursday to speak with students about job opportunities out west. Calgary Economic Development staff will set up a pop-up career fair with more than 60 organizations represented. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers credited for protection of Parliament Hill
In the midst of the terrible tragedy and fear that overtook Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, there were moments of heroism and pride.
Commendations rolled in for the Ottawa police and their quick response to protect those in the downtown core, after one or more gunmen opened fire at the National War Memorial and prompted a full lockdown on Parliament Hill.
Respect and prayers were sent to the family of the yet-unnamed guard shot and killed at the beginning of Wednesday’s chaos, and all men and women who wear a military uniform across the country.
And there was also a flurry of commendation for the country’s Sergeant-At-Arms, 57-year-old Kevin Vickers, a veteran of the RCMP and the protector of the House of Commons.
According to several Members of Parliament and the Canadian Press, Vickers stepped into duty on Wednesday and shot a suspected gunman during the chaos on Parliament Hill.
“All the details are not in, but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Conservative MP Julian Fantino told QMI Agency. “He did a great job and, from what I know, shot the gunman and he is now deceased.”
According to the Government of Canada, the Sergeant-at-Arms is a largely ceremonial position that, among other administrative duties, “is one of the officers who may administer the oath of allegiance to newly elected Members (of Parliament).” (Source: Yahoo News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, the Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 23, 2014
Masked gunman killed after Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, fatally shot at National War Memorial
A soldier was fatally shot at the National War Memorial Wednesday morning before a single, masked suspect was shot dead in Parliament. The chaotic situation is ongoing as police seek multiple suspects in the attack but say they do not know how many individuals were involved.
“One shooting victim succumbed to injuries. He was a member of the Canadian Forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones,” Ottawa police said in a statement.
The soldier has been identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist based out of Hamilton, Ontario.
“Today a member of Hamilton’s own Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was killed while performing the duties of a sentry at the National War Memorial,” Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said in a statement.
Two others were injured in the attack, one of them a security guard at Parliament’s Centre Block. Both are in stable condition.
One gunman has also been confirmed dead.
“One male suspect has also been confirmed deceased,” police said. Sources told The Canadian Press that Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms for the House of Commons and 29-year RCMP veteran, shot the gunman within Parliament.
CBS News said the gunman has been identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982, citing unnamed U.S. government sources.
The RCMP and Ottawa police say: “This is an ongoing joint police operation and there is no one in custody at this time.”
At an afternoon press conference, police said they could not confirm yet if the gunman who shot the soldier is the same as the one who was killed in Parliament.
Gilles Michaud, RCMP assistant commissioner, called it a “dynamic, unfolding situation.”
Police have been tight with information, leaving politicians to be the first to break news Wednesday.
“Gunman at Parliament’s Centre Block has been shot and killed,” Conservative MP Bernard Trottier tweeted at 10:30 a.m. Tory MP Bob Zimmer also reported the same.
Police expanded their perimeter throughout Wednesday afternoon and have confirmed there has been shootings in two areas, the National War Memorial and in Parliament. Police said there was no shooting at the Rideau Centre, as was reported earlier during the chaotic situation. (Source: National Post)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday October 22, 2014
Conservative government orders studies into homegrown terrorism
A day after committing six fighter jets and hundreds of personnel to the fight against the Islamic State, the federal Conservatives are commissioning five new studies into homegrown terrorism and terrorist financing.
Public Safety Canada issued a call for five new research projects into a variety of terrorism-related topics Wednesday, including the domestic impact of international conflict and the role of the internet in terrorist recruiting.
“A prominent threat facing Canada’s national security . . . is radicalization leading to violence, including homegrown violent extremism,” reads the call for proposals.
“These cases are rare, but the impact of an act of terrorism is potentially enormous, with serious and lasting psychological and emotional harm to a large number of individuals, as well as economic impact and/or the creation or escalation of tensions between communities and countries.”
The research will consider a number of questions:
How does the “psychology of the internet” play into terrorist activities and recruitment?
What are the domestic impacts of international conflicts, such as the war in Iraq?
What are the gender dynamics involved in radicalization to violence?
How are resources transferred to terrorist organizations? How are those resources moved and used?
What makes people susceptible to recruitment into violent extremism?
The research will be funded by the Kanishka Project, a five-year, $10 million fund created in 2011 to study security issues.
Despite the government’s mockery of political opponents for searching for the “root causes” of terrorism or “engaging in sociology,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has committed around $5 million to similar research over the last three years. (Source: Toronto Star)
Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 21, 2014
Election promises candidates should not make
Election candidates say the darndest things. For the most part, it’s all motherhood. But sometimes they overpromise. Sometimes they promise — or semi-promise — things that just aren’t going to happen. Here are some examples. We’re not saying they all do this, but we know some do.
“If elected, I will stop school closures.” Candidates who say this, or even hint at it, are either naive or misleading. The province holds the purse strings and the decision-making over all education policy, in particular around closures and matching funding. A more accurate way to say this is: “I oppose school closures, but sometimes they are inevitable. When that happens I will work with my colleagues and with city hall to ensure unused schools remain community hubs so neighbourhoods don’t suffer.”
Here’s another one. “If elected, I will revisit amalgamation.” If a candidate says this to you, here’s a suggested response: “No, you won’t.” Only the province could revisit amalgamation, and it has no interest. That egg cannot be unscrambled. The Harris Conservatives forced amalgamation on Hamilton and its suburbs. A more honest pledge is: “If elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure my constituents and all citizens get a fair shake in the City of Hamilton.” Outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina got a fair bit of traction with his pledge to revisit amalgamation. Don’t get taken in again.
Here’s a classic. “If elected, I will work to put term limits in place.” If a candidate says this, it’s either untrue or it suggests the candidate is unwise, because any work invested in this project is a waste of time. Term limits would require provincial legislation to be changed, and there is no indication this or any provincial government is interested. Why? In part, because there’s a good chance that legislated term limits would not survive a constitutional or legal challenge. And in part, because if a provincial government indicated it supported term limits, it wouldn’t take very long for people to suggest they be applied provincially.
If you’re a person who believes that term limits are a good thing, the best thing you can do is ask your candidate if he or she will agree to voluntarily limit their time in office. If someone makes that commitment, take it for what it’s worth.
This one is less black and white. “If elected, I will make sure tax increases are never more than the rate of inflation.” This one isn’t untrue, necessarily. All three leading mayoral candidates say they will aim for tax hikes 2 per cent or lower. But that’s only half the story, because inflationary increases don’t get at the infrastructure deficit. And city departments are getting less than 1 per cent funding increases, which is less than inflation. Economic development wins will make a dent in this, but the bottom line is that in the medium and long term, tax hikes that low are not sustainable. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 18, 2014
What’s fair play in an election campaign?
The efforts of purported online hackers to “expose” a Ward 3 candidate as a Freemason just jumped to the top of a list of questionable campaign tactics in Hamilton.
It’s getting to be a long list.
Alleged mass destruction of Marie Robbins signs in Stoney Creek. An anonymous letter disputing how long Sandy Shaw has lived in Ward 1. A suspected “whisper campaign” about the health of mayoral candidate Brad Clark.
Clark, in turn, was accused of mudslinging after claiming candidate Fred Eisenberger misled the public by withholding rapid transit memos when he was last mayor. Clark then faced criticism when it was revealed he got the memos from outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina, not via a Freedom of Information request, as suggested by his campaign.
The difference between hardball tactics and dirty politics is often in the eye of the beholder, said political pundit Gerry Nicholls, known for creative attack ads during his time with the conservative National Citizens Coalition.
“Attack ads, brawling tactics … it’s kind of par for the course in elections,” said Nicholls, who fondly recalls skewering federal politicians using “farm animals and billboards.”
“Politics really is a blood sport. If you’re not ready for the rough stuff, maybe you’re not ready to run for office.”
Still, Nicholls said every candidate has to respect basic rules, such as libel law. “You don’t call someone a liar … You may hint at it, you may imply it,” he said. Also, do your research. A factually incorrect attack ad “can really come back and bite you.”
Clark rejects the characterization of his campaign as negative. He argued Thursday the vast majority of his announcements have been positive and added it’s fair to criticize the track record of opponents.
“There’s a difference between comparing performance and quite literally name calling,” said Clark in response to a Spectator question at a news conference on improving council relations.
The Stoney Creek councillor has indeed endured some notable barbs from mayoral competitors like Brian McHattie, who has called him “Machiavellian.”
Clark also recently held a news conference to address what he felt was a “whisper campaign” about his rheumatoid arthritis, which he said is in remission and has never interfered with his duties as councillor.
Shaw was irritated to learn about the anonymous pokes at her residency. The rookie candidate said she briefly lived outside the ward for family reasons but is back and has had a home in Ward 1 for 32 years. She describing the letter in field hockey terms: “like a crack at your ankles on a breakaway.”
Ward 3 candidate Matthew Green is the latest victim — or, possibly, beneficiary — of a political attack. A YouTube video ostensibly posted by the online collective of hackers Anonymous warns viewers the rookie candidate is a Freemason who moved his business to Ward 3 to “control” the neighbourhood.
Some online comments noted the video does a good job reminding viewers of Green’s activism and media plaudits for being a “young professional to watch.”
Green said he appreciates the shoutout, if not the “poor production values” and “tinfoil hat stuff.” He declined to say who he thinks is behind the video — but added it isn’t him.
“I don’t know, this election seems to have really brought out the kookiness in some people,” said the candidate, who described himself being “two-for-two” in unwanted election news after being accused of defamation following a heated exchange with a school board trustee.
“Maybe you haven’t arrived until someone makes an Anonymous video about you?” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, October 17, 2014
Parliamentary delinquency on assisted suicide On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in a Charter challenge to our ban on assisted suicide. Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, the women afflicted with degenerative diseases at the case’s origin, have ended their suffering. Some groups press on in their names, while others defend the law. Whatever the outcome, the case testifies that the House of Commons has ceased to be the place where Canadians debate what matters most to them.
This wasn’t the Supreme Court’s first time considering the right to end one’s life or to receive help in doing so. In 1993, a bare majority of five judges rejected Sue Rodriguez’s claim and upheld the ban on assisted suicide. The only judge from that time still serving is Beverley McLachlin. Then a young judge, she was one of the dissenters.
Court watchers expect Chief Justice McLachlin to rally a majority around her view of autonomy and reverse the earlier decision. The case law under the Charter has evolved. Public opinion around assisted suicide has shifted. Legislative innovation in other jurisdictions offers examples of loosening the ban while establishing safeguards to protect the vulnerable.
But is this the kind of decision best left to the courts? By any standard, it’s an extraordinarily complex, delicate question.
Determining policy on assisted suicide involves our fundamental commitments to the autonomy of the individual and the sanctity of life and entails interpreting those commitments in a secular, multicultural society. It calls for weighing the right to assistance ending one’s life against the risk of abusing that right and exploiting the vulnerable. In our federation, it requires distinguishing the Parliament of Canada’s exclusive power to define the criminal law from the provinces’ power to regulate health. (Continued: Globe & Mail)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 16, 2014
Gas prices at 5-year low and dropping
The pain oil producers feel with oil prices hovering just above $80 a barrel is a bonus for consumers filling up at the gas pump.
Gasoline prices are at a five-year low in Canada, leaving more money in consumers’ pockets.
Prices have dropped to the $1.11 a litre level in some parts of Ontario, as low as $1.03 in Edmonton, $1.25 in Vancouver and $1.22 in St. John`s, a sharp price drop from the early summer. The Canadian average was about $1.23, according to Roger McKnight, an analyst with En-Pro International.
The price will fall even lower in most parts of Canada over the coming weeks, said Dan McTeague, who analyzes oil and gas prices at tomorrowsgaspricetoday.com.
McKnight agrees. “I could see it [crude] going down another $6 a barrel for WTI and that would translate into another three cents per litre [at the pumps] within the next 30 days,” he said.
McTeague said years of speculation drove world oil prices to $147 US a barrel in 2008 and $115 US this June at the time when ISIS seemed to be threatening supply in Syria.
But now there is a worldwide glut of oil.
“The reality is now setting in that crude has no floor, and as any other commodity, when the supply is high and the demand is low, prices have nowhere to go but down,” he told CBC News.
The shale oil boom in the U.S. has resulted in strong supply in North America and Saudi Arabia signalled last week that it would continue to pump oil and sell it at $80 a barrel, rather than manage its supply. That’s a 30 per cent drop since June.
And waning international growth has led to a drop in demand for crude.
West Texas Intermediate, the main oil contract traded in New York, is selling at $81.78 US a barrel today, and Western Canada Select, the price paid to many Canadian producers, is at $68.98 US.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver acknowledged the hit against Canadian producers, who may soon have to cut back on investment in new production.
“There will be implications for some companies, on the other hand, Canadian consumers can benefit from lower prices,” he said in a news conference Tuesday. (Source: CBC News)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Ebola vs. Flu
If you go by media coverage and public sentiment, the most important public-health problem in the United States right now is Ebola. Though the virus has infected only two people here, a recent poll found that forty per cent of Americans see Ebola as a “major or moderate threat” to public health, as Michael Specter points out in this week’s Comment. Meanwhile, over the past month, another infectious disease, Enterovirus D68, has made its way into the headlines. The virus causes respiratory problems, often severe, in children, and, in rare cases, kids infected with the virus have come down with muscle paralysis (it’s still not known whether the virus is actually causing the paralysis). So far, almost six hundred children, in forty-five states, have been infected by the virus, and though most have recovered quickly, five have died. Anxiety among parents has grown so much that some now wonder if we’ve been worrying too much about Ebola, and not enough about enterovirus.
In reality, we’re worrying too much about both Ebola and EV-D68, and too little about an infectious disease that is much more likely to inflict serious damage on the U.S. I’m talking, of course, about the flu. We know, based on past experience, that the upcoming flu season will kill thousands of Americans and send hundreds of thousands to the hospital. Yet the press seems relatively diffident about raising an alarm about this threat; its flu coverage has none of the high-pitched anxiety that suffuses writing about Ebola or EV-D68. EV-D68 has provoked headlines like “How Well is Sacramento Prepared for Ebola, Enterovirus Outbreak?” and “What Scares You More—Enterovirus D-68 or Ebola?” No one is asking “What Scares You More: Ebola or the Flu? (Continued: The New Yorker)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, October 11, 2014
Kids these days, and a contrast in world views
Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work for children’s rights.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited the two “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Malala, 17, is the youngest ever winner of a Nobel Prize. A schoolgirl and education campaigner in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Meanwhile, a 14-year-old girl has been ticketed for interfering with a police animal after allegedly blowing an air horn at a Hamilton police Mounted Patrol Unit horse, causing the animal to enter a live lane of traffic.
This is the first time police have used the new bylaw since it came into effect Aug. 20, said mounted unit Sergeant Brad Adams.
The bylaw, which comes with a $250 fine, was approved by city council amid complaints from police about people, often patrons in Hess Village, harassing the horses. These incidents, including beer bottles and cigarettes being thrown at the horses, were happening on a weekly basis, he said.
The mounted unit was in the area of James Street and King Street East around 4:40 p.m. Thursday when they noticed a girl with a can of “wacky streamers” spraying the stairway leading up to the rooftop of Jackson Square, Adams said.
When the officer approached, the girl began blowing an air horn. Initially police horse RHLI was initially not bothered, but when the girl went behind the
horse and again blew the horn, the horse was startled and stepped into a live lane of traffic. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)