My latest: Jason, we badly knew ye

Wither thou goest, Conservatives, in thine dark blue car at night?

Sorry to get all Jack Kerouac on y’all, but that little line from On The Road kind of fits, doesn’t it? I mean, after Conservatives committed ritual mass political suicide on Wednesday night — in the Conservative heartland, no less — it is fair for the rest of us to wonder: What the hell?

Jason Kenney — he who was Stephen Harper’s right hand, he who delivered the elusive ethnic vote and a majority, he who united the warring factions of the right and defeated the socialists — is gone. It is mindboggling.

As my colleague Brian Lilley put it to a few of us at the Sun: “Jason Kenney not being conservative enough for Alberta? The implications for the federal leadership race are huge.”

And Lilley is indisputably right. Kenney’s conservative credentials were impeccable. Nobody in Western Canada worked harder to advance the interests of Team Blue. And in Ottawa, Kenney was feared and respected — and could always be counted on to be the happy warrior for his side.

As premier, Kenney waged endless war with Liberal Justin Trudeau, or cheered on other Conservative politicians, or travelled tirelessly — just a few days ago to Washington, to advocate for Canadian energy — to push for policies that conservatives favoured.

So what happened? How can Conservatives win, as Lilley noted, if even Kenney isn’t good enough?

As a member of the Alberta diaspora, I was and am dumbfounded by Kenney’s ouster. Kenney possesses a brilliant, agile political mind. He always seemed to be several steps ahead of his opponents.

And now, this, and his career is in ruins. Was it because the UCP malcontents felt he had become, in Preston Manning’s words, “Ottawashed,” and out of touch with his home province?

Was it because he was one of those politicians — like Paul Martin, say, or Al Gore — who needed a stronger, savvier boss in charge? Without Harper around, Kenney never seemed to be entirely what he had been. Or could have been.

Was it because Conservatives in Alberta have utterly lost any discipline? That they lack self-control and common sense?

Or was it because — as Lilley suggests — Kenney, of all people, was seen as insufficiently conservative? Was it because Kenney wasn’t right-wing enough?

If so, conservatives — federally, at least — are doomed. Kenney was a real-deal Tory. If Alberta Conservatives want someone even more to the right, they’ll perhaps get it. But they won’t get the support of most Canadian voters.

Voters, too, will be unimpressed by this latest conservative blood-letting. The federal Conservative leadership candidates were bad enough — smearing each other, calling each other liars, accusing each other of scandal and law-breaking.

But this? Jason Kenney led a majority government, and polls suggested he had a reasonable shot at re-election. To jettison him now doesn’t mean that he wasn’t good enough — it means that a lot of Alberta Conservatives have lost their minds. And their once-sterling commitment to political discipline.

Which leads us back to that first question.

Whither thou goest, Conservatives, in thine dark blue car at night?

From here, it looks like you are heading for the ditch.


My latest: get wasted, get violent, get away with it

We Canadians like to feel superior to the Americans.

The Yanks regularly give us reasons to feel superior. There’s their fetishization of all manner of guns, which results in mass-shootings, 693 of them last year alone. Then there’s their schismatic politics, which saw a racist groper elected to the White House, and a violent insurrection against their seat of government, leaving nearly ten people dead.

And then, in recent days, there has been the draft opinion crafted by a few unelected, unaccountable extremists on the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision that will end American women’s constitutional right to control their own bodies.

Canadians eyeball all that, and we feel better about ourselves. We think we have peace, order and good government. Better decisions coming from our highest court, too.

Well, not always. Take, for example, R. v. Brown.

In the blink of an eye last week, Canada’s Supreme Court rendered this country a less-safe place. Unanimously, too. Unless and until it is remedied, R. v. Brown is a decision that will see rapists and murderers walk free here. Guaranteed.

The facts, first, as taken from the high court’s own brief: “On the night of Jan. 12, 2018, Matthew Winston Brown consumed alcohol and ‘magic mushrooms’ at a party in Calgary, Alberta. The mushrooms contain psilocybin, an illegal drug that can cause hallucinations.

“Mr. Brown lost his grip on reality, left the party and broke into a nearby home, violently attacking a woman inside. The woman suffered permanent injuries as a result of the attack. When Mr. Brown broke into another house, the couple living there called the police. Mr. Brown said he had no memory of the incidents.”

The “permanent injuries” blandly referred to, there, were basically the destruction of Janet Hamnett’s arms and hands. Brown, a body-building athlete, broke into her home, and attacked her, over and over and over, with a broom handle.

The case made its way up to our highest court, where Hamnett — and women’s groups, and victim’s rights groups — were essentially told: Too bad, so sad. Writing for an unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Nicholas Kasirer said the “extreme intoxication” section of the Criminal Code violates the Charter in a way that cannot be justified in a free and democratic society and is thereby unconstitutional.

Why, you ask? Good question. Kasirer and his colleagues felt that the section violates the Charter because society could interpret someone’s intent to become intoxicated as an intention to commit a violent offence.

Get that? The section — which was passed by the government of my former boss Jean Chretien — has been in place for a generation, and reflects the state of the law in most other democratic nations on Earth. It reflects common sense, too: If rapists and killers know that getting wasted may get them out of jail — well, we all know what many of them are going to argue, now.

The Supremes don’t know, or they don’t give a damn. The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund did and does, however. They intervened in the case, pointing to the well-established reality: “The harm caused to women as a result of intoxicated violence is devastating and infringes on their right to security and equality.”

Janet Hamnett, meanwhile, has been left with no justice, and no recourse. Said Hamnett: “I am very disappointed with this decision, (but) it is not about me at this stage.”

“The Supreme Court basically said it’s allowable to attack, hurt, and even kill someone, if the perpetrator is out of control due to drugs or alcohol that were most likely ingested intentionally and willingly.”

Hamnett told the media that the decision creates a precedent, one that tilts the scales in favour of violent criminals. Said she: “Where is the justice in that? This opens a terrifying floodgate … and I fear for future victims.”

So should we all. The Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Brown is appalling and dangerous. Until it is challenged with a new law — the federal attorney general meekly says he is only “assessing” the ruling — there will be blood.

There will be a bit less willingness to believe we are always better than the Americans, too.

Because, in this case, we just aren’t.

— Warren Kinsella is a lawyer and was an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law


The Ontario election debate in tweets


My latest: boffo box office? Not so much

Can you picture it?

If Cecil B. DeMille was still around, and he was directing a big-screen re-do of his 1958 epic, The Ten Commandments, Stephen Harper would be cast in Charlton Heston’s role of Moses.

He’d be great at it, wouldn’t he?

The much-missed Senator Doug Finley would be picked to play Yul Brynner’s Pharaoah Rameses II, Moses’ adoptive brother. There’d be respect and affection in the relationship between Moses and Rameses, the Biblical exile and punishment stuff notwithstanding.

To update the resulting big-screen drama, there’d be a new scene when Harper/Moses would sweep down from his 40-day retreat on Mount Sinai, holding aloft the new commandments of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Among them: Thou Shalt Not Reopen the Abortion Debate. And: Remember Law and Order and Keep It Holy and Do Not Embrace Law-breaking Convoy Conspiracy Theorists and Racists. And: You Shall Not Have Any Other Currency, Bitcoin In Particular. And: Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Central Banking System In Vain.

And, most importantly: Thou Shalt Not Kill the Conservative Party Brand.

Moses/Harper would descend from Mount Sinai, and wave around his New Conservative Commandments, and Rameses/Finley would cast a baleful eye in his direction.

“You’re preaching, big guy, but the party ain’t buying,” Rameses/Finley would say. “Sorry.”

Watching the Conservative Party leadership debate, this week — because my editorial Cleopatra, Adrienne Batra, insisted I do so — my mind naturally strayed to the big screen version of same. And scripture.

Because a debate did indeed take place, notwithstanding the thousands of interruptions of moderator Tom Clark, who presided over an affair that had the production values of a high school musical (a bad one.) Onstage, it was Pierre Poilievre versus Everyone Else, pretty much. And it was apparent that Pierre had already smashed the Harper/Moses commandments to bits.

Pierre is busily recreating the Conservative Party in his own image, you see. And — while he will likely be successful at that — the resulting abomination won’t be. Under Pierre Poilievre, defeat at the hands of Justin Trudeau (who is dislikable, but not as dislikable as Pierre) is certain.

Watching the debate, unhappy Conservatives were provided all the proof they need. Pierre says he’s now sort-of, kind-of pro-choicey — but he’ll still let social conservative MPs bring forward laws to kill abortion rights.

He says he’s in favour of law and order — but there he will be, in a Liberal attack ad coming soon to a screen near you, chumming it up with those who defaced a statue of Terry Fox, danced on the War Memorial, stole from a soup kitchen, threatened law-abiding mask-wearing Ottawans, held an entire city hostage, and blockaded our borders, thereby costing the country billions in trade. Not so law-and-order, that.

Oh, and there’s Pierre onstage, too, pimping for Bitcoin Ponzi schemers, whose digital “currency” has lost half its value since November — and defaming the mild-mannered chap who leads the Bank of Canada, whose sole and only mission is to keep Canadians from losing their homes and their savings.

Why is Pierre Poilievre so obsessed with Bitcoin and central banks? Beats me. But he looks crazier than an outhouse rodent when he goes on (and on) about either. Do you think Pierre has the power to make eggs and ground beef any cheaper? Of course you don’t. No politician can do that. But Pierre, whose ego is Biblically-huge, thinks he’s possessed of super powers.

Anyway. Others were on the stage in Edmonton, but you’d never know it. Jean Charest looked 110, but he’s also the only guy who looked like a Prime Minister. Patrick Brown is a lousy speaker, but he’s selling memberships like hotcakes. Scott Aitchison is a nice guy, but we all know where nice guys finish. A couple others were onstage, but who cares: they’re loons. Pierre is still going to win the party, but lose the country.

In the closing scene of Cecile B. De Mille’s Ten Commandments re-do, Moses/Harper is lingering outside Centre Block, while Rameses/Finley is having a smoke.

Rameses/Finley regards the sullen Moses/Harper, and then says: “You’re still the only guy who could lead these idiots into the promised land of power, big guy.”

Dramatic pause.

“But this movie isn’t going to have a happy ending. Sorry.”


The Reformatory debate in tweets


My latest: OLP’s “SlapMineNuts” candidate is slapped – out

SlapMineNutsMC’ has been slapped — right out as an Ontario Liberal candidate.

Following an exclusive report in the Toronto Sun, Sudbury-area high school student, Aidan Kallioinen, has been told he will not be permitted to run as a candidate for the Ontario Liberals in Sault Ste Marie in the June 2 election.

Responding to this newspaper, Andrea Ernesaks, the party’s press secretary wrote: “These reports were not disclosed to us in the vetting process. We have spoken to Mr. Kallioinen and have informed him that he will not be running as part of our Liberal team.”

The “reports” Ernesaks refers to, and which reported earlier in the Sun, revealed that Kallioinen referred to himself in online chats as “SlapMineN___MC” and had participated in discussions where participants joked about people “dying of AIDS.” The Sun has not verified whether Kallioinen was one of the participants joking.

The former Liberal candidate was chosen over Naomi Sayers, an experienced and respected Indigenous lawyer. Sayers has been legal counsel to one of the largest electricity providers in Canada, and is called to the bar in Ontario and Alberta.

She has appeared before courts and tribunals at all levels. Her work has been cited at the Supreme Court of Canada, and she has been a university professor at Algoma University.

Kallioinen, meanwhile, was a Grade 11 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary in Sudbury, three hours’ drive from the Soo. Del Duca’s Liberals refused Naomi Sayer’s application — and made Kallioinen their chosen candidate.

They did so on Monday night, news outlet Soo Today reported, with 16 minutes notice given to local Liberals. “Aidan Kallioinen will be acclaimed as the candidate of the Ontario Liberal Party in the electoral district of Sault Ste. Marie,” declared Mike Cavanaugh and Jordan Hudyma in an email sent to party members.

The appointment contradicted Del Duca’s own pronouncements about elevating female candidates to the legislature. Just a few weeks ago, Del Duca issued a statement on International Women’s Day, and said: “Ontario Liberals will fight to make sure our province has an equitable recovery. We are also committed to ensuring that come this June, at least 50% of our candidates are women.”

Except, in the case of Indigenous female lawyer Naomi Sayers, many Ontario Liberals felt, Del Duca wasn’t very “equitable.” He chose a white male high school student instead.

Sayers is active on social media. In the past, she did sex work, which she has not hidden. The law societies of Ontario and Alberta evidently weren’t concerned, because they both admitted her to the bar.

Nor did the Ontario Liberals ever raise Sayers’ sex worker past with her.

Instead, they denied her candidacy because she disclosed too much material to them.

Charrissa Klander, the “nomination commissioner” for the Ontario Liberals, wrote to Sayers and said: “Given the fact that we are days away from the election being called, and we will be unable to complete full vetting, I am writing to advise you that I have instructed staff to stop further review of your nomination application.”

There was an “enormous volume of material” provided by Sayers, Klander complained.

So, Sayers was out. A few days later, the Ontario Liberals picked young Aidan Kallioinen, who had scrubbed his own social media — but not all of it. Now he’s out, too.

Naomi Sayers is now running as independent in Sault Ste. Marie. She’s expressed sadness about what Steven Del Duca’s party did to her.

“People are upset and not happy with how the party treated me. Those are the facts — I can’t change the facts,” says Sayers. “But I am happy to have my name on the ballot as an independent candidate, and I’m looking forward to participating in the democratic process to bring a voice for Sault Ste. Marie to the legislature.”

– Kinsella ran the Ontario Liberal war room in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law.