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Column: the new world disorder

LONDON – A G7 truth.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who lately knows a thing or two about unsubtle truths, offered up a perfectly English way of describing it all: “Difficult.”

The G7 summit, that is. “This was a difficult summit, with at times some very candid discussions,” May told MPs in the House of Commons. “The United Kingdom, with our allies and partners, will continue to play our part in promoting…the rules-based international order.”

Except, of course, there is no “rules-based international order” anymore. With the exception of the one that Vladimir Putin has unleashed on the West, “rules” and “order” are now decidedly oxymoronic. The new new order – characterized by chaos and disunity and the disintegration of democratic institutions – is the one that prevails, now.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of the new world disorder, and also the glowering face of it. Even the Britons most disinterested in politics knows that much. Down at the bustling Camden Market, above all of the knock-off Nike and Thrasher stuff, there is one T-shirt that is a big seller: one featuring a face, with Donald Trump on one side, and with Adolf Hitler’s on the other.

Just past the Hitler-Trump T-shirts, in an old British Rail yard, is the spot where the Clash practiced, a place called Rehearsal Rehearsals. The legendary punk group posed for their first album cover there, too, and wrote many of the political anthems found on that record.

“Yankee dollar talks, to the dictators of the world,” the Clash’s Joe Strummer howled on their song, ‘I’m So Bored Of The USA.’ “In fact it’s giving orders, and they can’t afford to miss a word!”

“I’m so bored with the U.S.A.

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.

But what can I do?”

Not much, then or now. Trump – as despotic and as deranged as he is – is indisputably in charge. Per Strummer, he’s not just talking, but giving orders.  We listen.

That was the part of the G7 summit in Québec that was the hardest to bear, for the British Prime Minister and our own: being obliged to listen to Trump. Being again forced to take seriously the rantings and ravings of the most unqualified President of the United States in history.

That, too, was the significance of that now-infamous photo, the one that was everywhere to be seen here in London, in the dispiriting day’s following the worst-ever G7 summit: the G7 leaders and advisers sombrely gathered around Germany’s Angela Merkel, as she stood like a schoolteacher above a pouting Trump, his arms crossed, the petulant child. Merkel looked to be imploring Trump about some point, and Justin Trudeau (revealingly, perhaps) was not even in the frame.

The photo’s file name – taken from Merkel’s Instagram account – was “AGMtenseboardroom.jpg.”

“Tense boardroom” is a bit of an understatement. Trump arrived late at the G7, departed early, and left frustration and consternation in his wake. On his way out of town, most notably, Trump lashed out at his host, Trudeau.

Trump said Trudeau was “dishonest.” He said Trudeau was “weak.” He said that Trudeau’s comments about the collapse of the G7 – which were bland and benign diplomatic politesse, and nothing particularly new – were going to “cost the Canadian people a lot of money.”

Trump’s advisors piled on, too. “There’s a special place in Hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” said Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro.

Not since John F. Kennedy raged about John Diefenbaker – not since Lyndon B. Johnson grabbed Mike Pearson by the lapels and shook him – have Canada-U.S. relations been this truly bad. Trump’s attacks on Trudeau – and, to a lesser degree, his dismissal of the G7 what May calls the rules-based international order – left the pundits and the experts in a lather.

Not this one, I confess. As I observed on Twitter, Trump’s preferred social media platform, “Justin Trudeau’s relationship with Donald Trump was always going to reach this nadir: Trump is a dishonest, disgusting thug. No campaign of servility was ever going to change that. But, now that it has, every Canadian should rally to Trudeau’s side.”

And, with the notable exception of the tin-eared Andrew Scheer, Canadians have rallied to Trudeau’s side. From Doug Ford in Ontario to Jason Kenney in Alberta, even Trudeau’s fiercest partisan critics were outraged by Trump’s attacks on a Canadian Prime Minister, and on Canada’s economy.

Meanwhile, Trudeau’s Trump charm offensive – up to and including pretending to take seriously Trump’s daughter, who was previously was only known for designing ugly handbags – was left in ruins at the G7. The thirty-plus phone calls, the many bizarre handshakes – the solicitous tilt of Trudeau’s tousled head, as he feigned interest in Trump’s inanities – all came to naught. Nothing was as important as rescuing NAFTA, a PMO senior staffer told me last year, and now NAFTA appears Canadian completely doomed.

Justin Trudeau, however, isn’t.

Despite having no major legislative success to point to – despite the India imbroglio, despite the #MeToo moments, despite falling behind an uninspiring opponent in fundraising and the polls – Trudeau was politically rescued by the G7. Trump’s extraordinary attacks on the Canadian Prime Minister have united Canadians like they have seldom been before. He may be an imperfect Prime Minister, but he is our Prime Minister, after all.

The G7 may have made for some “very candid discussions,” as the British Prime Minister said. But they also made for something else: Justin Trudeau’s inevitable re-election.

And that, too, is a G7 truth.


June 15, 2004

Dr. T. Douglas KINSELLA, CM, BA, MD, FACP, FRCPC.

Like some men, and as was the practice in some families, my brothers and I did not hug my father a lot. As we got older in places like Montreal, or Kingston, or Dallas or Calgary, we also did not tell him that we loved him as much as we did. With our artist Mom, there was always a lot of affection, to be sure; but in the case of my Dad, usually all that was exchanged with his four boys was a simple handshake, when it was time for hello or goodbye. It was just the way we did things.

There was, however, much to love about our father, and love him we did. He was, and remains, a giant in our lives – and he was a significant presence, too, for many of the patients whose lives he saved or bettered over the course a half-century of healing. We still cannot believe he is gone, with so little warning.

Thomas Douglas Kinsella was born on February, 15, 1932 in Montreal. His mother was a tiny but formidable force of nature named Mary; his father, a Northern Electric employee named Jimmy, was a stoic man whose parents came over from County Wexford, in Ireland. In their bustling homes, in and around Montreal’s Outremont, our father’s family comprised a younger sister, Juanita, and an older brother, Howard. Also there were assorted uncles – and foster siblings Bea, Ernie, Ellen and Jimmy.

When he was very young, Douglas was beset by rheumatic fever. Through his mother’s ministrations, Douglas beat back the potentially-crippling disease. But he was left with a burning desire to be a doctor.

Following a Jesuitical education at his beloved Loyola High School in Montreal, Douglas enrolled at Loyola College, and also joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was around that time he met Lorna Emma Cleary, at a Montreal Legion dance in April 1950. She was 17 – a dark-haired, radiant beauty from the North End. He was 18 – and a handsome, aspiring medical student, destined for an officer’s rank and great things.

It was a love like you hear about, sometimes, but which you rarely see. Their love affair was to endure for 55 years – without an abatement in mutual love and respect.

On a hot, sunny day in June 1955, mid-way through his medical studies at McGill, Douglas and Lorna wed at Loyola Chapel. Then, three years after Douglas’ graduation from McGill with an MD, first son Warren was born.

In 1963, second son Kevin came along, while Douglas was a clinical fellow in rheumatism at the Royal Vic. Finally, son Lorne arrived in 1965, a few months before the young family moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a research fellowship. In the United States, Douglas’ belief in a liberal, publicly-funded health care system was greatly enhanced. So too his love of a tolerant, diverse Canada.

In 1968, Douglas and his family returned to Canada and an Assistant Professorship in Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston. More than 35 years later, it was at Kingston General Hospital – in the very place where Douglas saved so many lives – that his own life would come to a painless end in the early hours of June 15, 2004, felled by a fast-moving lung cancer.

Kingston was followed in 1973 by a brief return to Montreal and a professorship at McGill. But an unstable political environment – and the promise of better research in prosperous Alberta – persuaded the family to journey West, to Calgary.

There Lorna and Douglas would happily remain for 25 years, raising three sons – and providing legal guardianship to grandson Troy, who was born in 1982. At the University of Calgary, and at Foothills Hospital, Douglas would achieve distinction for his work in rheumatology, immunology and – later – medical bioethics.

He raised his boys with one rule, which all remember, but none observed as closely as he did: “Love people, and be honest.” His commitment to ethics, and healing – and his love and honesty, perhaps – resulted in him being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

On the day that the letter arrived, bearing Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc’s vice-regal seal, Douglas came home from work early – an unprecedented occurence – to tell Lorna. It was the first time I can remember seeing him cry.

As I write this, I am in a chair beside my father’s bed in a tiny hospital room in Kingston, Ont.,where he and my mother returned in 2001 to retire. It is night, and he has finally fallen asleep.

My father will die in the next day or so, here in the very place where he saved lives. He has firmly but politely declined offers of special treatment – or even a room with a nicer view of Lake Ontario.

Before he fell asleep, tonight, I asked him if he was ready. “I am ready,” he said. “I am ready.”

When I leave him, tonight, this is what I will say to him, quietly: “We all love you, Daddy. We all love you forever.”

[Warren Kinsella is Douglas Kinsella’s eldest son. His father died two nights later.]

[From Globe’s Lives Lived, June 15, 2004.]


O lucky man

Justin Trudeau is the luckiest guy alive. Consider the evidence.

  • He starts slipping in the polls. Along comes Donald Trump to the G7 and insults him and Canada and makes Trudeau the most popular politician on Earth. Not just Canada. Earth.
  • He and his rookie government make rookie mistakes. Along comes Jagmeet Singh and Andrew Scheer, who proceed to make even more mistakes and underwhelm Canadians from coast to coast.
  • He gets in trouble with India and other stuff that makes him look unserious. Along comes Trump, again, who makes Trudeau seem positively Churchillian on any given day.
  • He doesn’t have big legislative wins, and he hasn’t won a new NAFTA, either. Along comes a broad-based voter consensus that the government that does less, not more, is the government that angers them the least.
  • He’s in trouble on his Left flank (pipelines, electoral reform). Along comes Doug Ford, who (irrationally) freaks out Lefties and will drive them back into Trudeau’s waiting arms.
  • He’s in trouble on his Right flank (deficits, taxes). Along comes John Horgan’s ilk, who (appropriately) anger Righties and who thereby make Trudeau look not so bad after all.
  • He gets into difficulty on any number of fronts (#MeToo, abortion, etc.). And along comes any number of politicians (see Scheer, Singh, above) who adopt positions that make Trudeau look exceedingly moderate and sensible.

It goes on and on. The guy just can’t lose for winning.

Comments are open.


Column: Kathleen put Kathleen first

Kathleen Wynne’s former cabinet colleague doesn’t mince words.

“Kathleen is all about Kathleen,” the former colleague says.  “That’s always her focus.”

One of her former fundraisers and advisors is similarly candid with this writer.  “I appreciate all the nice things you’ve been saying about me, but thought I should let you know I haven’t been involved with [Wynne] for months,” he says.  And he’s very happy to have nothing more to do with her, the former advisor says.

A former Liberal candidate, Jim Curran, is willing to let his name be used.  He is livid about Wynne’s ahistorical decision to concede defeat days before the vote, thereby consigning her candidates and caucus to political oblivion. Says Curran: “What Kathleen did to her candidates was pretty much the shittiest thing I’ve ever seen a leader do to her own, hardworking, selfless, dedicated candidates who have put their lives and families on hold for the party they believe in. It was absolutely selfish and totally disgusting.”

There are lots more stories like that, but suffice to say this: Kathleen Wynne lost.

She lost because her $70,000-a-month campaign Wizard ran the worst campaign in modern Canadian political history.  She lost because her war room was a joke – “the surrender room,” as someone said. She lost because she had no message to offer Ontario’s voters.  She lost because what messages she had – inter alia, “Sorry Not Sorry” – were juvenile and idiotic.  She lost because she thought she won in 2014 – when, in fact, Tim Hudak snatched defeat from the clichéd jaws of victory.

She lost because she gave up the political centre. She lost because she and her mercenary inner circle saw the Ontario Liberal Party as a vehicle for their personal ambitions – and now they have left it with massive debt, adrift, a shell.

But, mainly, Kathleen Wynne lost because of Kathleen Wynne.  She lost because something – Hubris? Self-delusion? Ego? – persuaded her to stick around longer than she should.  Something persuaded her that it was all about her.

Because, as her former senior cabinet colleague notes, to Kathleen, it is always all about Kathleen.

Now, there can be little debate that Kathleen Wynne was smart, she was driven.  No debate.  One does not become a Premier, generally, by being an idiot.  But, her intelligence notwithstanding, Wynne refused to see the writing on the wall.

It was there for all to see.  For two years leading up to the 2018 Ontario general election, Kathleen was the most unpopular Premier in Canada.  Angus Reid and other pollsters dryly reported on it at regular intervals: Wynne was deeply despised by Ontarians.  They wanted change.  They wanted her gone.

She didn’t seem to care.  Solipsism, or something, told her that she could communicate her way out of her dilemma.  She was, of course, the Premier who hustled to every Loblaws in Ontario to promote limited beer sales like it was the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize.  She could communicate anything, she told herself.

The polls told a different story.  A while ago, this writer and others commissioned a poll by a reputable national agency.  It showed that the Ontario Liberal brand was popular.  It showed that mostly McGuinty-era policies were popular.  It showed that, with former cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello at the helm, the party could win another majority.

But, under Wynne, the poll showed that the Ontario Liberal Party was heading straight for the rocks.

Last Thursday night, the Ontario Liberal Party – formerly one of the most successful political parties in the Western world – hit the rocks.  It was reduced to barely a half-dozen seats and no party status.

To the end, Kathleen Wynne made it all about her. “I have not lost the passion for continuing this work,” she said.

But  Ontario long ago lost any passion it had for her.


OLP: the aftermath, and the future

The Wizard, and Wynne, have destroyed the Ontario Liberal Party.

A rump in the Legislature.  A massive party debt.  A terrible, terrible campaign – possibly the worst in Ontario political history.

So where do Ontario Liberals go from here?

I gave many years of my life to the Ontario Liberals.  They were my political home – until Kathleen Wynne arrived, that is.  When she arrived, all of the McGuinty/Chrétien Liberals were driven out.  We were maligned and shunned.  Offers of help were ignored.  Some days, Kathleen refused to even utter Dalton McGuinty’s name.

Now Kathleen and her Wizard – who was reportedly getting $70,000 a month to preside over the worst campaign some of us have ever seen – are gone, or going.  I like Kathleen, as a person, and wish her the best in her future endeavours.  But good riddance to Kathleen the politician, and her Wizard and her Board.

So where do we Ontario Liberals go from here?

Not so long ago, when it became apparent to some of us that a Wynne-led Ontario Liberal Party was headed for disaster, Daisy Group commissioned a poll by a reputable national agency.  We wanted to know what would happen if the OLP was led by the woman who should have won in 2013 – the woman who was knifed in the back after a shady backroom deal involving Messrs. Murray, Hoskins and Sousa.

Below are the key findings, never before seen publicly.  They show three things:

  1. The Ontario Liberals would have won last night, big, with Sandra Pupatello.
  2. The Ontario Liberals would have picked up support in precisely those places where the PCs and the NDP triumphed last night.
  3. The Ontario Liberal brand was strong – but only with Pupatello as leader.

So, you may ask yourself: can Ontario Liberals come back from last night’s disaster?

Yes. But only if Sandra Pupatello is leader.

And, if she wants the job.


Get your Ontario Election coverage right here!

Or, go watch Lisa on CITY-TV. That’s probably a better use of your time.

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Two tales of #MeToo

The first tale goes back six months.

In January, in the same week that CTV News unleashed its extraordinary 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:

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 was no longer in cabinet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kept him in caucus, however.  Which was odd, given that he had kicked out other Liberal MPs for similar offences.  An ostensibly arms-length investigation commenced into the various allegations against Hehr.

This week, that investigation – whose report the Prime Minister is keeping secret – concluded.  Kent Hehr would not be returning to cabinet.  Last night, however, Hehr started doing the media circuit, insisting that his actions were “clearly not” misconduct.  But his pitiful rationalizations didn’t matter: he was out of cabinet, for good.  My friend Kristin Raworth – because she has become a friend, and I am frankly in awe of her courage and strength – had been vindicated.

So that’s one #MeToo tale.  Here’s the other one.

The second one landed last night.  I was rushing to band practice and saw something had appeared in my inbox.  It was a newspaper clipping, from the Creston Valley Advance in B.C.  An editorial, dated August 14, 2000.

Here is the most important part:

Justin Trudeau “handled” a female reporter, and had apologized.  He wouldn’t have done it “if I had known you were reporting for a national paper.”  The newspaper editorialized about how he was wrong to have done what he did.

The former reporter’s name is known.  She still lives out West and is married now.  As far as I know, she doesn’t want to talk about what happened.

And that’s as it should be.  Kristin Raworth bravely chose to come forward in the Kent Hehr case, while the other female complainant chose to remain anonymous.  It’s their choice.  Same with the young reporter who Justin Trudeau “handled.”  They get to decide when and if to tell their story, not someone else.

But the two tales are related, aren’t they?  Certainly, one broke six months ago, and is about sexual harassment from a decade before that.  The other broke last night, and is about sexual harassment from 18 years earlier.  One case in Alberta, one in B.C.

But. But the two tales, appearing on the same day in June 2018, are connected.

If what Kent Hehr did resulted in him being considered unfit for cabinet, is Justin Trudeau similarly unfit?

Now, Justin Trudeau is busy at the G7, preoccupied with the utter failure of his Trump charm offensive – and, perhaps, the utter collapse of his political base in Ontario.  But when he gets back to Ottawa, you can reasonably expect he will be asked:

Why aren’t you facing the same fate Kent Hehr did?