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Questions about April 23, 2018

  1. Why do some people always bicker over whether it was terrorism or not? It was mass murder. Isn’t that enough?
  2. How could he be driving for as long as he did on Yonge Street (half an hour) – as far as he did (more than a kilometre) – and no one shot him, or rammed his van, or both?
  3. What do those early stories mean, when they say that he was known to police?
  4. Why do politicians always offer thoughts and prayers? Why don’t they instead offer policies and ideas that would prevent something like this?
  5. Who was that truly amazing cop who caught the killer without firing a shot? Where does bravery like that come from?
  6. Who are the ones who took pictures of victims to post on Twitter? Can we find them and shame them?
  7. Why do we always give these mass murderers what they want, and profile them? Can’t we, just once, lavish that much attention on the victims alone?
  8. Has anyone started a fund to help the families?
  9. Why do we need to hear from anyone other than the mayor and the top cop? Why do federal and provincial politicians insist on being seen at the press conferences?
  10. Why did this happen, and how can we make sure it never happens again?

Column: Liberals and sexual harassment


When is it owed, politically? By whom, and when? Who should dispense it, and who should receive it?

Not abstract questions. Not, certainly, on the weekend that federal Liberals were gathering in Halifax for their annual convention.  Not in the case of Liberal MP Francis Drouin – who stands accused of sexual assault in downtown Halifax, just hours before a workshop on sexual harassment was about to get underway.

Not abstract, either, in the difficult and ongoing case of Droin’s colleague – and former cabinet minister- Kent Hehr.

The Drouin case is still being investigated by Halifax police – so we should wait to see if charges are laid. But the facts in the Hehr case are notorious and well-known – and (full disclosure) indirectly involve this writer.  In the same week in January that CTV News unleashed its blockbuster story about former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, a regular reader – one who had asked me to speak at a #MeToo rally in Edmonton – tweeted at me. This is what she tweeted:

“My political #MeToo moment @kinsellawarren: I’ve debated this. But that’s the power of sexual harassment. My first day working at the Alberta legislature I was told to avoid being in an elevator with Kent Hehr. He would make comments. He would make you feel unsafe.”

I retweeted what she said. Within hours, hundreds of others retweeted or liked it, as well. It went viral.

The next day, as revelations about Patrick Brown‎ were still landing – and revelations about the just-dumped Nova Scotia PC leader, as well – Kent Hehr abruptly cancelled a funding announcement in Toronto. Shortly afterwards, Hehr resigned from cabinet.

For reasons that are unclear, the Prime Minister kept him in caucus, however.  And an ostensibly arms-length investigation remains ongoing into the various allegations against Hehr.

Fast-forward to this week:  the federal Liberals are holding their 2018 national convention in Halifax.  On Saturday morning, they scheduled a workshop called “Ensuring Safe Spaces and Ending Harssment.”

One of the attendees at the convention – a survivor of abuse – contacts this writer.  “I’m concerned that [Kent] Hehr’s attendance at the sexual harassment workshop will hijack the discourse and make people feel uncomfortable,” she wrote. “But it’s a great PR exercise for him.”

She continues: “I agree that men are the target audience, but NOT one under active investigation!”

The CBC’s Katie Simpson reports that Hehr has been invited to the workshop by Julie Lalonde, described by the Liberals in their online program as a Women’s Rights Advocate and Public Educator.  In her story, Simpson writes: “Julie Lalonde is not afraid of uncomfortable conversations. As a public educator, she embraces them for the teachable moments they offer.  That’s why she invited Liberal MP Kent Hehr to one of two workshops on sexual harassment she’s hosting this weekend at the Liberal Party of Canada convention in Halifax.”

Said Lalonde to Simpson: “I would love to see Kent Hehr attend.”

The women who have contacted this writer, however – as well as one of the Alberta women who came forward to accuse Hehr of inappropriate behavior – are not happy to hear about that.  At all.

One of Hehr’s accusers tells me: “[Lalonde] is giving him redemption when he has not earned it.”  Another woman at the conference is similarly outraged: “TVO removed Steve Paikin from covering sexual misconduct/harassment stories pending the investigation. That is smart and respectful.  I feel very shaken as a rape survivor [by Hehr’s planned presence at the workshop].”

Lalonde, however, strenuously denies that she invited Kent Hehr, and insists that CBC got it wrong.  “I didn’t invite him. The headline is misleading,” she writes.  “I was asked if I wanted him to be there and I said he clearly needed to learn so he should come.”

When told that women have contacted this writer to complain about Lalonde’s willingness to let Hehr attend, she responds: “That’s fair. [But] I am not redeeming him. He will not be acknowledged by me.  I refuse to pretend he’s the only issue in the party. MANY men are abusive in politics. Unless I ban all men, abusers will be in the room.”

And that, of course, is indisputably true: many male abusers still lurk in the corridors of power.  #MeToo has unmasked some of them, but not all.  They are still out there.  Some even pretend to be supporters of the #MeToo movement.

What, then to do about Kent Hehr? Should he be permitted to attend workshops like Lalonde’s, and thereby achieve some small PR victory – or, ideally, learn something?  Or, as his (many) critics have said, Hehr should be removed from the Liberal party caucus – and barred from workshops like the one in Halifax – until (a) the investigation is over and (b) he performs an act of contrition that is clear and unambiguous and public?

Women should decide, not men. Women, after all, are disproportionately the victims of male political predators.

This man’s take, offered merely as an opinion: Kent Hehr should have stayed away, and Julie Lalonde should not have said she would “love” to have had him there.

Until the investigation is complete – and until all the facts are known – that workshop belonged to the women.

Not Kent Hehr. Not Francis Drouin, either.

The week in the Twitter sewer

I am active on Twitter. I admit it.

Some people apparently read me on Twitter, too, and I (mostly) enjoy interacting with them. Here’s what the last week has been like. Lots of interaction.

A “reach” of over five million. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I know this: me and others are clearly drawn to Twitter.

But I’m repulsed by it, too. Perhaps you are, as well. Because, you know, Twitter is also often terrible.

Its creator, Jack Dorsey, has a more benign take on President Pisstape’s preferred platform, naturally. Speaking of Twitter’s beginnings, Dorsey says “we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Well, no.

In my experience – and in the experience of not a few others – Twitter is often anything but inconsequential. It is the place where neo-Nazis and white supremacists go to spew hate and frighten minorities. It is where misogynists come to threaten and demean women – with dark promises of rape and murder and blackmail. It is where the mob is, most days, digitized torches and pitchforks at the ready.

Facebook is for falsification. Twitter is for defamation.

Case in point: a proud Beaches-area neo-Nazi named James Sears publishes a “newspaper” against which we have been doing battle for years. We have had some successes, but we aren’t nearly done yet.

Sears also has a Twitter account, under the name “Dimitri the Lover.” He fancies himself one – although the law sees him differently, having charged him in the past for sexually assaulting women.

I block Sears’ Twitter account, but I also periodically scan it for material that may be useful in the five legal actions we’ve initiated against him and his Hitlerite winged monkeys (two criminal, two civil and one administrative). A few weeks ago, I found a Sears tweet that contained the foulest expressions of anti-Semitism and race hatred. I won’t reprise it here.

I reported it to Twitter, however. I pointed out – yet again – that they had become a willfully-blind accomplice to the dissemination of Naziism. I demanded they remove it. They speedily acknowledged receiving my complaint.

This weekend, I finally received a brief notice from Twitter that they’d dealt with my complaint, here:

Wow. Had they finally kicked Sears off Twitter? Really? I went over to Sears’ account and this is what I found.

A birthday tribute to Adolf Hitler. Complete with swastikas, a declaration that the Holocaust was a hoax, and “Hitler was right.”

Twitter, with its “chirpy” name and “inconsequential” bits of information, is neither chirpy nor inconsequential. It is the haters’ village square. It is the place where subhumans like James Sears have found their voice. With impunity.

Dorsey shouldn’t have called it Twitter.

He should have called it Sewer, because that’s what it so often is.

You won’t read all about this one in the Toronto Star

Story by QP Briefing, which has been repeatedly breaking stories lately, here:

When PC Leader Doug Ford was the only party leader who declined to participate in a Toronto debate organized by Black community organizers, the Liberals criticized him as being out-of-touch.

In social media copy that was also shared by some Liberal riding accounts, the party stated: “Doug Ford says he ‘loves the blacks’ but wasn’t at the Town Hall tonight… Did Doug Ford deliberately choose to ignore the black community leaders debate? #ONBlackVote #WhereIsDoug #onpoli”

There is one problem with this statement: QP Briefing cannot find any record of Doug claiming that he “loves the Blacks,” a phrasing that would be considered offensive.

We asked the Liberal Party to provide a reference to where we could find this quotation, and they conceded it was an error.

“It appears the tweet accidentally referred to Doug when it should have said Trump,” David Clarke, executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party, said in an e-mail on Monday night. “We’ve corrected the error and are working to ensure accuracy to re-issue it.”

Best part of the story? They then went on to issue a new tweet, which contained a new error.

None of this would be happening if Warren Kinsella was still alive.

Doug Ford, and why the populi like his vox

Abacus (with whom Daisy proudly does work, full disclosure, etc.) has a fascinating poll out about who is in the so-called Ford Nation, what they think, why they think it, etc. etc. It’s here.

Now, in recent weeks/months, some folks have been asking me: “Warren, why don’t you hate Doug Ford as much as me and my friends in the Annex do?  Why do you say nice things about him?”

Well, two reasons.  One, I like him.  I’ve written about why, here.  When I was being used as a human piñata, Doug was the first guy to call me.  In politics, you tend to remember calls like that.

Two, the claim that Doug Ford is Donald Trump is fucking idiotic.  The Doug Ford I know is readily seen here – I encourage you to watch all of it – and he bears no resemblance, in any way, to the Mango Mussolini. (Some days, as I told Evan Solomon on his CFRA show yesterday, I’m not even sure Doug is an ideological conservative.)

Why is Doug winning?  Lots of reasons.  Weariness with the Ontario Liberals.  Suspicion about the Ontario New Democrats plans.  But, mainly, I think it’s because his opponents have greatly underestimated him.  I used to work for a guy, remember, who was underestimated all the time.

And Doug is sort of like that guy, that little guy from Shawinigan.  And, he’s like Ralph Klein, Mel Lastman, René Lévesque, Jean Chrétien. He’s like all of those populist-type politicians who are anti-politicians.  He doesn’t look a matinee idol, he doesn’t use perfect grammar, he sometimes (and often) says the wrong thing.

And people like him/them for it.  They don’t like Doug despite his failings – they like him because of his failings.  Get it?

Don’t believe me?  Check out this Abacus slide.  It tells why he is ahead, and why he is likely to stay there.

Comments are open.

Starbucks, racism and a social media case study

By now, you have heard all about the two real estate brokers who were seated in a Philadelphia Starbucks last week, waiting for another man to meet with them for business.  The two real estate brokers were black.

The white, female Starbucks manager called the police, who came and arrested the two men.  They were led away in handcuffs, while other patrons, all white, shot videos and protested what had happened.  The two men were eventually released, without charges, in the middle of the night.

Along with several million other people, I was disgusted by what Starbucks had done – particularly when I saw their non-apology “apology.”  So, I did what several million others had done, and took to social media.  I tweeted this:

That tweet was retweeted more than 600 times (and counting), including by author Cory Doctorow. It was “liked” close to 2,000 times. And Twitter said that it had been seen more than a quarter million times.  The videos of the arrests were seen many more times than that.

That all reminded me of three things:

  1. Its failures are well-documented – the misogyny, the threats, the hatred – but Twitter (and Facebook, whose failures are legion) can sometimes be a force for good.  It can connect with people and mobilize them.  It can even get a corporate global behemoth to pay attention, and react.
  2. I’ve been writing about, and opposing, racism for more than three decades.  In 2008, on the extraordinary night when Barack Obama won, I thought it might signal the end of racism.  That was profoundly naïve, of course, as racism has only gotten worse – and now we even have a white supremacist as Obama’s successor.  Race, and the divide over race, remains the dominant socio-political factor in the United States – and is a dominant factor in other supposedly-tolerant nations, like ours.
  3. Starbucks attracted a tremendous amount of attention, here, because (a) it is as ubiquitous as the Catholic church, and (b) because (clearly) many people regarded it as some sort of progressive and enlightened bulwark against the nativism that is now rampant everywhere (see point two, above).  I suspect this incident would have attracted zero attention if it had transpired on the sidewalk outside that Philly Starbucks.  There would have been no videos shot – at least not by white people.

What does it all mean?  It means the beast of racism is still awake, and that social media can alternately feed and punish it. It means that Starbucks can be counted on for only lattés, not wisdom.

Also: everything sucks.  One step forward, two steps back.  Always.

Column: is this worth $2,119 an hour?

July 2017: the Assembly of First Nations have gathered for their 38th general assembly in downtown Regina.

Thousands of indigenous people from across Canada are in attendance. Along with speeches, seminars and cultural events, there is a trade show.

Dozens of businesses and organizations have paid thousands for booths to advertise their services and wares at the trade show. One of them is the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The booth is empty.

There are two folding chairs, a few folding tables, and a sign: “National Inquiry into MMIWG,” it says. Photocopied.

No one is staffing booth. There is no literature, no displays, nothing.

My wife is a paid attendee at the AFN general assembly. She tries to take a picture of the empty booth with her iPhone, and an angry woman approaches her. The angry woman demands to know why she is taking a photo. Dissatisfied with the answer she gets, the angry woman goes to complain to organizers.

The next day, the booth is still empty. No staff, no materials, nothing.

And the sign is gone.

My wife and I happen to be visiting the then-Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, that same day. We show him the picture. He shakes his head. “That is a disgrace,” I tell him. He doesn’t disagree.

And “disgrace,” generally, has remained the best word to describe the Trudeau government’s inquiry into the murders and disappearances of thousands of indigenous woman and girls. It is a multi-million-dollar disgrace, in fact, one that the father of the Minister of Justice – himself a hereditary chief – called “a bloody farce.”

“I would think that young [Justin] Trudeau should darn well know that this thing is not working and he should fire these people,” Chief Bill Wilson told CBC a few weeks before AFN’s general assembly.

“It just makes me sick. People have been sitting on their hands for…months, spending a good ton of money and they haven’t done a doggone thing.”

And, in the intervening months, the inquiry has more or less continued to do just that: spending a good ton of money, and not “a doggone thing.”

A summary of the myriad controversies that have followed the inquiry everywhere it goes:

  • Scores of resignations of high-profile resignations, including an executive director, two communications directors, and various managers and directors of operations and community relations.
  • Routinely seeking a bigger budget and being behind schedule – and, at one point, demanding millions more from the federal treasury before a single witness had been heard from.
  • Incompetence that is so profound and so pervasive, the Native Women’s Association of Canada was moved to issue a scathing report slamming the inquiry for “a lack of communication that is causing frustration, confusion and disappointment in this long-awaited process” – and for actually inflicting “desperation” among the very First Nations families they were supposed to serve.

And then, last week, the latest revelation: the inquiry issued a multi-million-dollar, sole-source contract with a law firm. A contract that stinks.

The unseemly little contract was discovered by Brian Lilley of Ottawa’s CFRA. Reports Lilley: “It’s a staggering amount for a contract that only lasts 8 months. The law firm McCarthy Tetrault is being paid $5,320,766.60 in a sole sourced contract. A contract worth almost 10 per cent of the inquiry’s $54 million budget,” he writes.

“What is the work for? Well at this point, that is unknown. Despite phone calls and multiple emails, my simple questions to the inquiry have gone unanswered. Given all the coverage of problems at the inquiry, a contract like this should raise questions and those questions should be answered.”

The sole-sourced contract was to run from September 6, 2017 and end on May 15, 2018. It wasn’t put up for competition because, Lilley reported, it supposedly related to “Consulting Services Regarding Matters of a Confidential Nature.”

A confidential nature.

As such, Lilley wasn’t told why McCarthy Tetrault was handed this sole-sourced, “confidential” sweetheart deal. We did figure out the math about the cost, however. Lilley worked it out. “[The] $5.3 million fee is for a contract that lasts just 251 days. That works out to $21,198.27 for each day of the contract. If we assumed a 10-hour work day, that would mean McCarthy’s is billing out at $2,119 per hour.”

Read that again: $2,119 an hour. Considering that the standard rate is $235 an hour, this contract is an obscenity.

(Full disclosure: I know the usual hourly rate because that is what I was periodically paid to work with First Nations for Liberal and Conservative Prime Ministers as a Ministerial Special representative – until I was terminated by inquiry champion Carolyn Bennett, without explanation and over the objections of officials, immediately following the October 2015 general election.)

More than two thousand dollars an hour. As the Minister of Justice’s Dad said, this “inquiry” was and is a farce. It should make everyone sick.

After this writer condemned the contract online, a spokesperson for the inquiry wrote to the Hill Times. The spokesperson wrote that the contract is for “the electronic processing and analysis” of documents by a little-known McCarthy Tetrault business arm. As in, documents provided by witnesses.

Get that? We are paying millions for some clerks to “process documents.” Not even professional legal advice.

As Lilley put it: “For too long the families at the centre of this inquiry have had to push for answers on their loved ones. They shouldn’t need to push for answers on this [sole-sourced contract] as well.”

Well Carolyn Bennett give us answers?

Don’t hold your breath.

And they spent $650,000 on the Ontario Cannabis Store logo, too!

This is how they think they’ll win? With puerile tweets like this?

Here’s a fact, Wizard War Room: Kathleen Wynne, who is a smart person who you continually embarrass with crap like this, is – post-legalization – going to become the biggest seller of cannabis in North America.

But, by all means, keep aiming for third place. The PCs and the NDP are cheering you on, every step of the way.