Categories for Feature

My advice: kick Trump in the nuts

That’s my considered diplomatic advice. From next week’s Hill Times column:

At a press conference held to mark the end of the Parliamentary sitting, Trudeau gave the sort of verbal shrug for which his father became well-known. 

“We continue to make sure that our folks are in regular contact, we continue to work on NAFTA negotiations,” Trudeau said. “I think the next time that I’ll see [Trump] will be at the NATO summit in Brussels and I look forward to continuing to have a constructive relationship with him in which I will continue to stand up for Canadian interests.”

“I believe it’s clear the way we have engaged with the president has been the right one.”

Well, actually, no.  It hasn’t been, at all.

If he is anything at all, Donald Trump is a thug.  Being a thug, he admires thuggery.  Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: those are the men whom Trump most admires.  The ones who are decent, and civil, and play by the rules – like Justin Trudeau, like Angela Merkel, like Emmanuel Macron – are door mats, on which Trump routinely wipes his feet.  He holds them in contempt.

When Trump “won” the U.S. Electoral College with three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, frantic bureaucrats and diplomats around the world scrambled to type up memoranda about what lay ahead.  The peered into the dark, dank recesses of the space where Trump’s brain is supposed to be, and they came up with a strategy that can be summarized in one word: flattery.

Suck up to Trump, they advised.  Kiss his flabby posterior, they said.  It will work.

It didn’t.

Others, like this writer, always had a different view: strongmen admire strength. Aggressors respond to aggression. Having cut his teeth in the take-no-prisoners world of New York City real estate – having literally become a star on a TV show whose principal purpose was humiliating people in prime time – Donald Trump was never going to abruptly change course, and adopt the Marquess of Queensberry rules. 

Having achieved the presidency by being an angry, racist, pussy-grabbing creep, Donald Trump was never going to stop being angry, racist, pussy-grabbing creep.


Justice, conscience, law

This clip from The Ox Bow Incident is why I became a lawyer.  I watched it when I was a kid, and this part – the part with Henry Fonda reading a wrongly-executed man’s letter to his wife – stayed with me.  It changed me.  Take a couple minutes and watch it.


The time in which we are all living is not a movie, of course. Terrible, terrible things are happening now, right now, in real life. Powerful people are committing unspeakable crimes against those without power.  It is not a movie; it is not a debate on Facebook.

All of us are being judged, right now.  In the years to come, people will be judged for what they did do, and what they didn’t do.  All of us.

What have I done, to express my conscience – to give effect to the law and to justice?  Well, not much; not nearly enough. I have written a book, one that directly addresses this new dark age, and it describes what I increasingly believe is the only way out.  Lisa and I and some of our kids are going the States in a few weeks, to again be unpaid volunteers for Democrats in mid-term election races.  And, this Summer, we plan to hold a rally against racism and hate that is growing right here where we live.

Is any of that enough?  Probably not.  But it’s something.

What isn’t enough is a tweet, or a hashtag, or a Facebook link.  You have to do more than that.  As I said at the Merv Leitch Memorial Lecture in Alberta this year:

In the Internet era, where trolls sit in their in their Mom’s basement and spew hate at women and Jews and Muslims and anyone who isn’t like them, you need to do one thing above all: show up. A tweet isn’t enough. A Facebook link isn’t enough. In Canada, with those who are pushing the Trump and Brexit plan, that means peacefully confronting them on the stump or at their offices, and doing all that you can to put their election or re-election in peril. That’s what keeps them up at night. Show up, and make them worry. As Tip O’Neill said: all politics is local. So give the other side a problem that is local and that isn’t going away.

Laws don’t give us a civil society. Our conscience, and our sense of justice, does that.

Act on your conscience, now. You – all of us – are being measured by history.


Why won’t Canada denounce this? Why? (UPDATED!)

It’s the story that made Maddow cry on air.

Read it, here.

And – now – we are also being told that these children are orphans now – they will never be reunited with their parents again.

Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.

Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday.

In recent days, some have taken me to task for likening this American regime to Nazis. For saying I hate them. I don’t care: they are like Nazis. And I do hate them.

But what I think doesn’t matter. I’m just a guy with a web site.

What matters is what people with power do and say.

And, so: when will my government – the Canadian government – will finally speak out on this?

When?

UPDATE: And Trudeau condemned it! That is such, such good news.  Proud Canadian, here.


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.