In Friday’s Sun: spare a thought for Moose Jaw

MOOSE JAW, SASK. – As you head into town here, there’s bright yellow canola sprouting on one side of the highway, and bluish flax to be seen on the other side. There’s winter wheat, too, but it’s a bit harder to spot at this time of year.

The Saskatchewan sky goes on forever and ever, and it’s frankly more simply beautiful than anything you’ll see almost anywhere else. Our pilot, Dane, takes a hand off the wheel and waves in the direction of the canola and the flax and the wheat.

“Five bucks a bushel,” says Dane Friese, who pronounces his first name as Dean. Dane has lived in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and a few other places besides, and finally came home to Moose Jaw, flat broke, a few years ago. He now ferries folks between Regina’s airport and Moose Jaw. He points again at the crop.

“Saskatchewan is an agricultural province,” he says, while acknowledging the significance of potash. “And the farmers can’t even get their crop to market.”

The reason why is surprising – or, at least it was to his eastern visitors. All of the trains are ferrying oil to refineries, he says. Hardly anything else. So the crops stay warehoused in Saskatchewan grain elevators, and farmers can’t find an economical way to get it out.

Welcome to the Keystone XL/Northern Gateway paradox: in their (efficient and effective) campaign to demonize pipelines for Alberta oil, some environmentalists – aided and abetted by a lazy U.S. Congress, and the glamour of Hollywood stars – are hurting the environment-loving people who are closest to the land. Here, Saskatchewan farm families.

If the oil patch can’t ship their product via a pipeline, they find other ways. Oil’s like water; it always finds a way out.

So they send it east and west via rail. And, accordingly, there are no rail cars to carry Saskatchewan canola, wheat or flax to market.

Around here, all of this has resulted in a massive backlog of undelivered grain. The situation has grown so grave, Premier Brad Wall has demanded the federal government intervene. Saskatchewan farmers, he simply says, “would like to get paid for their hard work.”

Outside the Prairies, many Canadians and Americans are candid about all of this: they simply don’t care. They object to the existence of the tar sands, and wish to stop a pipeline at all costs. In Maine, just this week, city councillors in South Portland took steps to stop Alberta oil from being shipped through the state’s largest port.

They may not care about the implications for the families who live in or around Moose Jaw. But they should care, perhaps, about the possible consequences of oil being shipped by rail through the neighbourhoods where they live, and work, and raise their children.

The catastrophe that befell faraway Lac-Megantic provides the most powerful cautionary tale about allowing millions of barrels of oil to be shipped via rail car. People should know, by now, the dangers that are associated with the status quo.

A pipeline like Keystone would move enough oil, in a single day, to avoid having to make use of 4,200 railway cars to move the same amount. Lac-Megantic provides a compelling argument for finally doing so.

If that is not enough, those railway cars could also be to finally transport landlocked Saskatchewan grain to market, too.

That may not be as powerful a reason as Lac-Megantic. But the folks around here, like Dane, would appreciate it if you gave it some thought.


In Tuesday’s Sun: Mike Duffy isn’t the only one who should be charged

It’s a little like being charged with speeding when you’re not in a car.

Or, it’s like robbing a bank when, you know, there’s no bank. Or, say, being busted for breaking and entering, when nothing was broken into and entered.

A first-year law student understands it, and I’m certain you do, too: in order for criminal offences to be successfully prosecuted – and, presumably, the RCMP and the Crown want their high-profile prosecution of erstwhile Senator Mike Duffy for bribery to be successful – there has to be ALL of the criminal act he’s been charged with.

To wit, allegedly taking a bribe.

Now, we lawyers love Latin. We accordingly call this “act” part of a criminal offence the “actus reus.” It’s the action or the conduct part of a crime. In a bribery charge, it’s “accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves…money.”

In Latin, the mental element is called “mens rea.” It’s the requirement of having a “guilty mind.” In a bribery charge, it’s committing the act above in a “corrupt” way.

To successfully prosecute someone with a bribery charge, you need the act part, and you need the mental element part.

Now, the onetime Conservative Senator from PEI has been charged with plenty of other things, too, but it’s the bribery charge that has generated the most controversy. Here’s why: how can Mike Duffy be charged with accepting a bribe when, um, the cops aren’t also charging the person(s) who allegedly offered it?

But that’s what the Mounties and the Crown have done, here, and they look idiotic as a result. They look like they are trying to protect Prime Minister Stephen Harper, instead of enforcing the law.

It was Harper’s former Chief of Staff who, bona fide, entered into discussions with Duffy about repaying $90,000 in improper expense claims. The Chief of Staff hasn’t been charged with anything, and nor has his boss.

Why not? The “act” of bribery requires two parties. I mean, you can’t really bribe yourself, can you? It takes two to tango, bribery-style.

But here, only one party – Duffy – has been charged. Make any sense to you? Me neither.

There has been some speculation that the Prime Minister and his ex-Chief of Staff were not charged because the RCMP, in their wisdom, determined that neither man acted “corruptly.” That is, the mental element was not present.

If that’s so, can’t Duffy’s lawyer – and he’s got an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer who is legendary, believe me – argue the same thing? “Your Honour, Senator Duffy wasn’t acting corruptly! He simply was seeking help to repay the treasury. That’s not corruption, Your Honour – it’s a public service!”

Whenever police forces play politics, it ends badly – mainly for them. They stink at it. They tried to smear the Ontario Liberals mid-election campaign, and arguably helped win the Grits a majority. They blew up the Toronto Police Service’s criminal investigation of the city’s mayor, giving Rob Ford the best news he’s had in months. And so on.

In the Mike Duffy case, the RCMP and the Crown seem to have gotten together, and actually conspired to protect the Prime Minister and his staff.

They can call that whatever they want. I say it meets the “actus reus” and “mens rea” test for something else.

Corruption.


Free advice to New Democrats

Sure, you lost the Ontario election, and the Trinity-Spadina by-election. Sure.

• Suck it up. Your brand still has value. That’s why federal and provincial Grits needed to kick the crap out of you – your brand had value.
• It wasn’t easy for them. They had to devote a lot of resources to doing that – because, again, you guys represent a real and manifest threat to Liberals in urban Ontario.
• You’re down this Summer, sure, and you’re licking your wounds. But you’ll be back – if you have discipline and conviction.

Take it from this Chretien and McGuinty Liberal: people will write your obituary a million times. Your job is to wipe your feet with the obituaries, and find your passion again.

Both those guys, who I was privileged to work for from 1993 to 2013, were written off many, many times. They came back.

You can, too, Dippers. Now quit your moping.


Dear John: not bad

Nearly 13,000 words in less than a month, Daughter was in opening ceremonies at North American Indigenous Games, sons again tore up the links in a golf tournament – and heading to Sask with Lala early Wednesday. It rained, but whatever.

Not bad.