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Twenty years of www.warrenkinsella.com

Twenty years!

I don’t know exactly the day, because I didn’t bother to write it down. And the Wayback Machine website isn’t all that precise.

But it does indeed seem to be true: www.warrenkinsella.com is 20 years old. For a web site – not a blog! – that seems like a long time.

We’ve been through a lot together, me and this little web site. The birth of Son Three (Daughter and Sons One and Two predated it). The death of my Dad. Two marriage break-ups. Deaths of dear friends and people I admire.

Started Daisy Group – which was terrifying and rewarding all at once – and built a multi-million-dollar company that has employed dozens of amazing young people, who all went on to do great things. Became an adjunct professor at my alma mater, the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law. Gave speeches, sang for my supper.

A few books: Kicking Ass In Canadian Politics, Fury’s Hour, The War Room, Fight The Right, the X series books: Recipe For Hate, New Dark Ages, Age Of Unreason. (I like Fury’s Hour and New Dark Ages the best.)

Four SFH albums and two singles, two Hot Nasties EPs. Lots of videos. Tons of shows. Best ones: opening for the Palma Violets in Toronto (and playing with them in L.A.), plus serving as Frankie Venom’s backing band in Hamilton for his last-ever show.

A third Chretien majority. Three McGuinty majorities. Big Joe Biden win (in which I played a minuscule role) and a big John Tory win (in which I played a bit-larger role). Losses of which I remain deeply proud, because I backed the better candidate (Hillary Clinton, Sandra Pupatello).

A pandemic, a global economic collapse, recessions, other stuff like that.  (Won a hundred bucks in the lottery, though.  There’s that.)

Oh, and as many as six million visitors a year to this wee web site. And not one penny paid for the many (actual or threatened) law suits. Not one cent.  Got a few threats of violence and death, along the way, too. Whatever.

I’ve written stuff I’m proud of, stuff that makes me wince. I’ve made predictions that were right (Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee, Kamala Harris as his VP pick, his precise electoral college win) and some that were comically wrong (provincial elections in BC and Ontario). I’ve written things that perhaps made you laugh, made you cry, made you get off your ass and do something. Hopefully.

Over the years, it’s been made clear to me – many times – that I could have made a lot more money by kissing ass on this web site. Could’ve been invited to more state dinners and all that. By saying nothing about, for instance, a Liberal leader who wore racist blackface and obstructed justice. But I just can’t. I won’t.

It’s not me. I’m an old bastard, I guess, but I’ve got a 16-year-old punk inside my chest, still, swinging fists and yelling at the racists and the liars. Spitting, dancing, raging.

Twenty years! It hasn’t ever been very profound, as I like to say, but it’s been all me.

Thanks for reading it.

 


My latest in the Sun: the vanishing vaccine

Politics is all about symbols. Ask Jimmy Carter.

Remember him? He was one of the very few one-term presidents. Usually, presidents get elected for two terms. It’s pretty hard to be defeated after just one.

Carter, a Democrat, was defeated in 1980 by something that happened in 1979. Forty-one years ago this month, a gang of jihadist Iranian students stormed the US Embassy and seized 52 American citizens and diplomats who worked there. They were held hostage for 444 days.

Four hundred and forty-four interminable days. Every night on the news, on every broadcast, newsreaders would somberly remind millions of Americans  that it was day whatever of the Iranian hostage crisis. It happened night after night after night. The networks even had special graphics made up for it.

And it all ended Jimmy Carter‘s presidency. The hostages were only released at the precise moment that his Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan, was sworn in as President of the United States.

In politics, it’s never one thing that kills you. It’s an accumulation of things – notably, an accumulation of bad luck. The Iranian hostage crisis was like that.

So is the growing vaccine scandal in Canada. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it is growing.

The scandal, as everyone knows by now (or should), is this: our allies are going to start vaccinating their citizens in a matter of days.

The British have more than 1000 vaccination locations that will be operating seven days a week across Great Britain, starting next week. Two weeks after that, the Americans will commence vaccinating millions of their citizens every single month.

The Germans and other allies, too, will kickstart massive vaccination programs in the month of December.

In Canada, none of that is going to be happening. In fact, in Canada, the federal government can’t even tell us when we will be receiving a life-saving anti-COVID 19 jab.

A deal with China fell through in May. A plan to build a National Research Council vaccine manufacturing facility in Quebec was also a spectacular failure.

And, now, we have now learned that the federal government has no Plan B. We are in line, reportedly, behind 2.5 billion other people in other nations. They will receive the vaccine first. Not us.

December 2020: that is when Justin Trudeau may start to see a political doomsday clock clicking down on him, and his government.

In that month, Canadians will start to see some thing that no amount of cheery Trudeau morning spin will obscure: citizens in other countries receiving the vaccine. With each passing day, with each snippet of footage showing relieved  folks resuming normal lives, Justin Trudeau‘s reelection prospects will start to shrink. Dramatically.

For the past four years,  Trudeau  has greatly benefited from comparisons to US president Donald Trump. On ethics, on race relations, on just about any issue, Trump has always managed to make Trudeau look good.

That is no longer the case. Whatever his failings, Trump and his administration instituted Operation Warp Speed: a massive and integrated effort to get vaccines delivered to state governments. And from there, into the arms of American healthcare workers and the most vulnerable.

If he has any legacy at all, it will be that: Donald Trump actually delivered the vaccine to Americans pretty quickly. So did Boris Johnson in Britain and Angela Merkel in Germany.

Justin Trudeau? He has indisputably and spectacularly dropped the ball. He had months to develop and implement a plan to ensure the Canadians receive the same vaccines that our allies are going to be getting, at the same time. He failed.

Is this Justin Trudeau‘s Jimmy Carter moment? We shall see.

He has survived many other scandals – the Aga Khan scandal, the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the WE charity scandal. He has had more lives than a cat.

But his nine lives may be running out. His luck may be running out.

Ask Jimmy Carter, he’ll tell you: when really bad news is repeated night after night after night, it’s someone else writing your political epitaph.

Justin Trudeau‘s failure to get a vaccine for Canadians may well be his.

[Warren Kinsella is a former Chief of Staff to a federal Liberal Minister of Health.]


My latest in the Sun: the Brits and Americans are getting the vaccine soon – but not you

What if they developed a vaccine — and no Canadians were going to get it?

That, incredibly, seems to be the current reality: within days, Canada’s two closest allies — the United States and Britain — are poised to start providing their own citizens with Covid-19 vaccines.

And Canada just isn’t.

Canada, in fact, can’t even say when Canadians are going to get the potentially life-saving vaccines.

This isn’t some story cooked up by Justin Trudeau-hating conspiracy theorists operating a website across the border. It’s a story that was first reported by the CBC, no less, which is rarely accused of being too tough on the Trudeau Liberal government.

“Two of Canada’s closest allies have laid out plans to distribute new vaccines against the deadly novel coronavirus, with the first shots expected to be delivered in December,” reported the CBC’s John Paul Tasker on Tuesday.

“Canada, meanwhile, has been largely silent on how promising vaccine candidates will be distributed here after Health Canada regulators give them the green light — providing few, if any, details beyond a promise to work with the provinces and territories and buy cold storage.”

Incredible, but true.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting in two weeks to give approval to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. That vaccine has been shown in drug trials to be effective with more than 90% of those who get it. Including seniors.

The FDA is expected to give the go-ahead to the shipping of the potentially life-saving drug the very next day. And millions of Americans will start getting their shots that same week. Twenty million Americans are expected to get the vaccine in December, and 30 million in January

In Britain, the story is largely the same.

The National Health Service has already identified more than 1,000 locations for Britons to receive vaccines. Staff are now on standby there to inoculate millions of British citizens, seven days a week — starting in the first week of December.

In Canada? Coronavirus crickets.

Sure, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) came up with a list of those who should get a vaccine first. And the Trudeau government minister in charge of procurement declared that she plans to buy a bunch of freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be preserved in deep-freeze conditions.

But has Trudeau’s government given Canadians any sense — a clue, even — when we can expect to extend our arms for the vaccines?

Not a chance.

Questioned by CBC — again, it’s the CBC that broke this scandal wide open, not the Conservative Party — Health Minister Patty Hajdu said it was “complicated.” She said the government hasn’t approved a vaccine yet.

Claimed Hajdu, who previously achieved notoriety for saying that the coronavirus risk to Canadians was low: “All of our departments are working right now, around the clock actually, on making sure we have a concrete plan with the provinces and territories, that we are ready to deploy the vaccines as soon as they arrive on Canadian soil.”

Feel better? Me neither.

Public servants may indeed be “working around the clock” on getting a vaccine into millions of Canadians. They may even be “ready to deploy” the vaccines when the precious vials arrive on Canadian shores.

But getting a vaccine into Canadians? Saving and extending lives here?

Well, you’re going to have to move to Britain or the United States for that, folks.

[Warren Kinsella is a former chief of staff to a federal Liberal minister of health.]


My latest in the Sun: pandemic politics for poltroons

Donald Trump: you’re fired.

And Joe Biden didn’t fire you. The coronavirus did.

By voting day, Nov. 3, nearly 60% of Americans disapproved — or strongly disapproved — of Trump’s handling of the pandemic that is killing about a thousand of them every single day.

Ask any political consultant: when that many voters disapprove of what you are doing, you’re toast.

It wasn’t always that way for Trump. Way back at the start of the pandemic, Americans supported his leadership. At the end of March, in fact, when it felt like the world just might be ending, Trump’s performance was approved of by a narrow majority of Americans, said polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.

That all changed on or about the first week of April. That was the week that U.S. COVID-19 deaths surged past the symbolic number of 10,000. After that, Trump was never again seen as handling the pandemic well. From July onward, the U.S. President’s performance rating remained constant: 60% of Americans were unhappy or very unhappy with him.

In those circumstances, Joe Biden essentially needed to maintain a pulse and smile a lot, which is what he did. His campaign, meanwhile, devoted itself to getting out the Democratic vote early — a process Trump mocked and attacked. It would prove to be a fatal mistake. Biden won mainly because of the support of those who voted early.

So, the pandemic can certainly end political careers, as it did for one Donald J. Trump. But elsewhere — in Canada, for instance — what effect does COVID-19 have on political outcomes?

Well, up here, there has not been a single incumbent government that has been defeated during the pandemic. Not one.

The minority NDP government in British Columbia was transformed into a majority, mid-pandemic. Same thing happened in New Brunswick: the minority Progressive Conservative government was elevated to a majority. In Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Party was re-elected, too — to its fourth consecutive majority government.

Federally, there hasn’t been a pandemic election, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently clearly tempted to engineer his own defeat.

In October, Trudeau refused to go along with Opposition demands to create a Parliamentary committee tasked with probing the propriety of government spending. Trudeau sent out his House Leader to state that the Liberal government considered the vote on the committee to be a confidence matter — meaning there would be an election if the government fell

It was absurd, it was ridiculous, it was unnecessary. It was also uniquely Canadian, too: only here — with our preoccupation with peace, order and good government — would a federal election be held over creating a committee!

If masked-up Canadians had trooped to the polls, would Trudeau have won? Yes. Ipsos pegged Trudeau’s support at six points above the Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives around the time of the committee contretemps. Abacus Data said the Liberal lead was as much as eight points.

Angus Reid found a smaller Grit advantage over the Tories — but two-thirds of Canadians, roughly, said that Trudeau’s government had handled the pandemic well. That figure has remained more or less constant since March, Angus Reid noted.

So what does it all mean? The polls don’t tell us that, exactly. But everyone accepts that the pandemic has massively disrupted our lives — politically, economically, socially, culturally. It is perhaps the biggest change most of us have ever faced as citizens.

That’s why incumbent governments are getting re-elected. Unless politicians have completely botched their response to the pandemic, voters are opting for the devils they know over the ones they don’t. They’ve quite enough disruption in their lives, thank you very much. They don’t want more.

Donald Trump is the exception. He made such a mess of his pandemic response, they couldn’t forgive him.

So they fired him.


My latest in the Sun: 3 > 2 < 10

Justin Trudeau is a three.

The late, great Rafe Mair left us with one of the truest of truisms: in politics, if you are a three, it doesn’t matter — if everyone nearby is a two.

Never has Mair’s observation been more true than with Justin Trudeau. The Liberal leader may be a dwarf, politically, but he still dwarfs all the dwarfs around him. (True.)

Such was the case with one Donald Trump, soon to be a private citizen. Trump was the best thing that ever happened to Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau had no shortage of wounds, all of them self-inflicted. And in each and every case, however bad Trudeau looked, Trump could always be counted upon to look far worse.

Take Trudeau‘s commitment to ethics (please). Trudeau is the first sitting prime minister to have been found to have violated ethics rules multiple times.

Remember the Aga Khan scandal? In that one, Trudeau took gifts from a lobbyist – free flights, traveling to a private island, and then saying nothing was wrong when he got caught.

Well, it was wrong. Plenty wrong. So said the ethics commissioner, who found Trudeau had flagrantly violated conflict of interest laws.

Same with the SNC Lavalin scandal, otherwise known as Lavscam. In that one, Trudeau and his officials – including his finance minister, who hastily-departed in the middle of yet another ethics imbroglio — tried to bully his justice minister into giving a sweetheart deal to a Quebec-based Liberal Party donor facing prosecution for corruption.

Because she refused to go along with the scheme, Trudeau drove out his female and Indigenous justice minister. He was again cited for wrongdoing by the ethics counselor.

But, even after all that, Trump made Trudeau look like a rank amateur. Trump actually attempted to get a foreign power to investigate a detested political rival who was also an American citizen – one Joe Biden, Democrat — thereby, earning himself a full congressional investigation and a later impeachment.

Another example: racism. In the middle of last year‘s federal election, Justin Trudeau was found to have worn racist blackface no less than three times. He even admitted that he may have done it more times than that.

It was inarguably racist, and it made Canada an international laughing stock.

Well, Donald Trump outdid even that. After the terrible events in Charlottesville — where an innocent woman was actually killed by a white supremacist — Trump said that there were “fine people” to be found among the ranks of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

That’s not all: in the middle of his first debate with Joe Biden, Trump declined to condemn white supremacy and groups like the racist Proud Boys.

During the coronavirus pandemic, which has been the defining political event of our collective lifetimes, Justin Trudeau again found a way to unimpress.

At the start of the pandemic, his government actively discouraged the wearing of masks, sniffed that the risk to Canadians was “low,” and actually called those who wanted to shut the border to China racist.

In retrospect, not impressive. But once again, Donald Trump was determined to impress even less.

He said the virus would go away in the Spring (it didn’t). He said it was a hoax (it wasn’t). He said people should consider injecting themselves with bleach (they shouldn’t).

And so on and so on. Justin Trudeau is a three. But Donald Trump was always, always a two.

Heads up, Justin: Joe Biden may not be perfect, but he’s no two.

And compared to you, big guy, he’s pretty close to a 10.

Warren Kinsella worked as a volunteer for Joe Biden and the Democrats in several US states