New boots and smellies

On the one hand, I winced at the “sulphur” remark. On the other hand, as a boot-ownin’ Cowtown boy, I thought the boot-haha about the origins of Ignatieff’s footwear was a bit silly.

Likening Stephen Harper to Satan – because that’s what the sulfuric statement arguably did – isn’t the most adroit strategic move. I mean, what do you say next? That he has the fashion sense of Vlad the Impaler? That he has Attila the Hun’s aura on a bad day? All of those guys worked the Devil. Once you deploy the rhetorical A-bomb, there’s no other weapon to reach for. You’ve said your opponent is the Prince of Darkness. What can you call him after that?

The cowboy boot imbroglio, meanwhile, is no rhetorical High Noon. As anyone who has traveled into the Québeçois hinterland will tell you, the wearing of cowboy boots is something that lots of folks do, not just Calgarians. In fact, I’d wager that there are more cowboy boots worn in rural Québec, chaque jour, than in all of Alberta.

Besides, and since I’m on a bit of a opinionizing roll here, the Stampede irritates me. My family lived in Cowtown for 30 years. As a charter member of the city’s diaspora, I can assure you that long-time residents usually endeavour to be elsewhere when the Stampede kicks off – ideally in another country. I mean, there’s only so many sightings of businessmen barfing all over their brand-new Howdy Doody polyester outfits – on downtown streets, broad-daylight, in front of horrified schoolchildren – that you can take before you want to head for the Rockies. If a real cowboy has ever been in Calgary during Stampede, I’ve yet to meet him.

Anyway. Sulfuric boots, whatever, blah blah blah. It’s Summertime: I had wagered that Iggy would have a pretty tough time attracting media attention on his bus tour. But I guess I was wrong about that.


Would you play badminton with Stephen Harper?

The new Angus Reid is out. Based on a 2,000+ sample, it says the topline voting intention is Conservatives 36%, Liberals 27%, NDP 20%, BQ 10%, Green 7%. That’s closer to a Con majority, but not close enough.

What interested me the most, however, was this section of the poll, about attributes and whatnot. It’s fun to read.

What do you think? Who would you have a beer with – and who would you want to play Trivial Pursuit with? Who would you play street hockey with, and who do you want negotiating international trade agreements?

Approval and Momentum

Harper’s approval rating stands at 31 per cent, tied with NDP leader Jack Layton. However, almost half of Canadians (48%) disapprove of the way Harper is doing his job, while only one-in-three (32%) feel the same way about Layton.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff remains highly unpopular. Just 14 per cent of respondents approve of the way he is handling his duties, while a majority (53%) voice disapproval.

Ignatieff continues to post the worst momentum score, this time of -24, meaning that while five per cent of respondents now have a better opinion of him, 29 per cent of Canadians now have a worse impression. Harper’s momentum is -21, while Layton fares much better than his two rivals at -3.


Canadians were asked to select up to six words or expressions from a list to describe the four party leaders sitting in the House of Commons. The top results for each one of the leaders are:

Stephen Harper Secretive (45%), arrogant (43%), out of touch (34%), intelligent (34%),
uncaring (32%) and boring (30%).

Michael Ignatieff Out of touch (39%), arrogant (37%), boring (36%), intelligent (33%), inefficient (31%) and weak (26%).

Jack Layton Intelligent (36%), down to earth (31%), compassionate (31%), honest (28%), open (26%) and out of touch (22%).

Gilles Duceppe Arrogant (34%), out of touch (32%), intelligent (23%), inefficient (19%), boring (19%) and dishonest (17%).

In a separate question, which aims to review how Canadians relate to the four leaders on a personal level, Layton emerges as an affable choice. Canadians pick the NDP leader over the other three contenders as the best man to have a beer with at a bar (34%), best to babysit their kids (30%), and best to play with in a sports team (27%).

Ignatieff is seen as the brainier of all, with Canadians picking him over the others to play in their trivia quiz team (26%), and as the best person to recommend a book to read (22%).

Harper has the edge on most policy matters, with at least three-in-ten respondents seeing the current prime minister as the best person to lead Canada in the event of a terrorist attack (37%), to negotiate with United States President Barack Obama on trade and security issues (36%), to deal with Russia on matters of Arctic sovereignty (35%) and to be in charge if there is another sovereignty referendum in Quebec (31%).

Fire. Him. Now.

Marin gave contracts to friend starting in 2001
July 11, 2010

David Bruser

During his 12 years as watchdog over the Canadian military and Ontario government, Andre Marin has paid close to a quarter of a million dollars to a friend and mentor to help him do his job as ombudsman.

Contracts and invoices show Marin outsourced important office functions to Ottawa law professor David Paciocco, who advised on investigations and wrote portions of several of Marin’s reports.

Federal documents, obtained by the Toronto Star, show at least $84,000 paid to Paciocco while Marin was military ombudsman between 2001 and 2005. They also shed light on the office tasks Marin outsourced to his friend.

Last month the Star reported that as Ontario ombudsman, since 2005, Marin has given two contracts worth at least $141,000 to Paciocco to spice up Marin’s reports exposing government problems.

At the time of the article last month, just days after Marin’s re-appointment and amid concerns he was mismanaging the provincial office, his spokesperson refused to provide documentation of Paciocco’s work, and Paciocco did not comment.

Paciocco again did not respond to calls and emails from the Star seeking comment on federal contracts that have now been released.

“Professor Paciocco’s expertise was one of many resources used to ensure that the work of the military ombudsman’s office was of the highest quality and legally unassailable,” said Marin’s Ontario Ombudsman spokesperson Linda Williamson.

Like Paciocco, Marin is a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario…

In the documents released to the Star, Paciocco was first retained by Marin in 1999 to give legal opinion on the new office’s powers. But between 2001 and 2005, Paciocco provided a variety of other services. As he was working for a government agency, taxpayers covered the cost.

Paciocco was paid to draft Marin’s statement in his department’s 2003-2004 annual report. On an invoice dated April 7, 2004, Paciocco billed $3,852 for “consultation, advice and drafting of the Ombudsman’s statement in the Annual Report.” That statement, adorned with Marin’s headshot and written in first-person, was eight pages long. The invoice also shows Paciocco drafted the report.

In February 2003, Paciocco billed $5,350 for various services relating to a military ombudsman’s report called “Crazy Train” – the result of a probe into why a military float in a pre-Grey Cup parade seemed to mock soldiers diagnosed with mental injuries. Paciocco billed for reviewing and revising the draft report, conference calls, “preparation of investigative protocol” and “assistance with opening statement.”

…he also re-drafted a report on a controversial soldiers’ meal allowance. His work on this report was part of a July 2003 invoice for $6,179. Marin said in his annual report that it was “my report” and that it was “compelling enough to lead the national news.”

Marin had the authority to hire Paciocco and in one instance approved the extension and increased value of a contract. Paciocco’s hourly rate has been blacked out of the federal documents released to the Star.

In one invoice that shows just how much office work was outsourced to Paciocco, the lawyer itemized the tasks done for Marin between July 26 to Aug. 4, 2004. The name of the report is blacked out in the federal documents. Paciocco wrote that Marin told him to “work ahead on themes I have developed,” wrote and completed the report, “including executive summary and report summary.”

A spokesperson for current military ombudsman Pierre Daigle said his office “does not have anyone on contract to draft annual or special reports or any type of public statements.”

Details emerged a month ago of a toxic atmosphere at the Ontario Ombudsman’s office, with current and former employees complaining they were mistreated (which Marin has vigorously denied). Marin was subsequently re-appointed.

Then the Star reported similar complaints were made by staff at his former posting with the military. A federal report done after his term as military ombudsman found he left in his wake a dysfunctional workplace rife with complaints and 150 staff departures from the small office during his tenure.

It was also reported that at the provincial ombudsman’s office, Marin sometimes used a highly paid civil servant to pick up his dry cleaning and monitor the maid cleaning his downtown condo. Marin’s office said at the time that the executive’s job included visiting Marin’s condo to watch over the property but did not involve dry cleaning pickup.

Obtaining detailed financial information on Ombudsman office contracts has been difficult, though Marin states on his website that “the Ombudsman is all about accountability and transparency.” Earlier this week, his office refused to provide contracts and invoices of Paciocco’s work for the Ontario Ombudsman.

Paciocco, a high profile academic and lawyer, told a dinner crowd gathered last year to honour Marin that he has known the “brash” Ombudsman since Marin graduated from law school and “strutted” into the Ottawa Crown Attorney’s office to take his first job. “I have known him since he was a boy’s head sticking out of a man’s suit. I have known and worked with André Marin for more some 20 years – which happens to be his entire professional career,” he said. “I like to think that Andre fancied me as something of his mentor.”

But a Marin spokesperson said in early June that he and Paciocco “do not now and have never socialized together.”

Marin’s regular use of a consultant appears at odds with his public statements that “generally we don’t have to pay for expertise.” Marin was questioned by a government committee in 2008 on the work his office does and a member asked if he made use of outside consultants. Marin said it “happens from time to time, but it’s relatively rare.”


Quite a few members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and not a few Big Names in Canadian media, talk to each other on Twitter. It’s fascinating to follow – like listening in on a party line.

In an unrelated matter, we’ve been drinking strawberry daiquiris, and I’m using an iPad to post this on QuickPress.

You’re welcome.

Float your boat

Randy Denley:

“As a safety program, the boater-licensing regime has more holes than a leaky rowboat. Even though boat owners must be licensed, unlicensed people who’ve never been in a boat in their lives can still rent them after filling out a safety checklist. Twelve-year-olds can operate boats of up to 40 horsepower, and can run bigger boats if they have a 16-year-old on board. Children under 12 can also operate boats up to 10 horsepower.”

(When I worked for him at the Ottawa Citizen, I didn’t ever argue with Randy, and I’m not about to argue with him now. But I had been under the impression that the new boat regs make it tougher for children to do what they once did on the water – which was, pretty much anything, no limits.)

In any event, Randy’s overall point is correct: Canada tolerates things taking place on the water that would never happen on the nation’s highways.

I have a laminated Pleasure Craft licence in my wallet. I got it last Summer. I was ten minutes early for a lunch with a Liberal friend, and I saw a boat-exam company had a booth nearby. I walked up, paid the fee, and did the exam. I got every question right, except one about sailing. I don’t sail.

I own two motor boats, however, and I try to be serious about safety. I don’t let anyone onboard unless they are wearing a life jacket at all times. Everyone has to stay in the seat they were assigned, and there’s no moving around mid-journey. And the stuff I regularly see on other boats – like open bottles of booze – are verbotten.

The craziest part about the new “rules,” in my opinion, is the rental thing. You can stagger up to a marina carrying a two-four, pretend to listen to the “safety checklist,” pay the rental, and then get handed the keys to a speedboat with a 300hp Merc. No questions, no problems.

There have already been a number of boat tragedies this Summer, and there’ll be plenty more before the end of August. Happens every year. Many of them could be avoided if Transport Canada got its head out its arse, and stopped treating the nation’s lakes and waterways like they were the Wild West.

Will they? I doubt it. The Harper Reformatories are libertarians more than they are conservatives. The only extra police activity they favour involves beating the Hell out of weird-looking people during the G20 weekend.

In the meantime, boating deaths and injuries will continue as before.

…and this is after the G20 fiasco

Seeing this, some Grits might be moved to recommend making some big changes, but they’d fall on deaf ears, I suspect. What would you suggest be done to fix this?

Liberal support down significantly: poll
CBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, July 8, 2010 | 5:08 AM ET

Support for the federal Liberal party has sunk to its lowest level in more than a year with the Conservatives taking a 10-point lead over their political rivals, a new EKOS opinion poll suggests.

The poll, released exclusively to CBC, suggests that 34.4 per cent of respondents would vote for the Tories if an election were held today, compared with 23.9 per cent for the Liberals.

In recent weeks, the Liberals had narrowed the Tory lead to three to four percentage points. But over the past week, the Liberals have taken a nearly seven-point drop in support.

According to the poll, the Conservative Party is leading in every region except for Quebec and in Atlantic Canada, where they are tied with the Liberals, who are losing ground in some key areas and not leading in any region.

Wishing Jack Layton (and others facing the same challenge) good health

Bought a new bunch of Livestrong bracelets yesterday at Nike; I’ve been wearing one non-stop since my Dad got sick, more than six years ago.

This CP story is a nice one, and shows the power of fighting back against this damned disease.  If you want to send Jack your best wishes, you can email him at:


Well wishers like ‘wind under your wings,’ says cancer stricken NDP leader (Layton-Health)

OTTAWA _ NDP Leader Jack Layton says he’s getting a big lift from public support for his battle against prostate cancer.

“I’m getting well-wishes from all over the place,” said Layton, who’s remained in the public eye since announcing last February he had contracted the same cancer his late father defeated 17 years ago.

“I have no doubt they have an impact. It’s like you’ve got this wind under your wings.”

He told a news conference Tuesday _ just hours after his latest medical checkup _ he feels good and doctors are “really happy” with his progress.

Layton, who turns 60 later this month, said he feels better all the time, despite losing 10 to 15 pounds and adhering to a strict diet that includes broccoli, cooked tomatoes and a southeast Asian berry called goji, known for its medicinal qualities and health benefits.

“I’ve cut out a lot of things I used to love to eat,” he said. “So I’m down to the weight I was when I was 25, and they say that’s good for your health in general, anyway. I’m feeling very good.”

The New Democrat leader said it appears his progress is following the same path as that of his father, Robert, who made a full recovery.

“I’m very, very optimistic,” he said. “So far, so good.”

The elder Layton, a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney’s government, died in 2002 at age 76 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Virtually every member of Parliament wore a teal-and-blue-striped tie or scarf inside the House of Commons one day in March in support of Layton’s fight. They’re the colours of Prostate Cancer Canada.

“His public gesture of courage showed Canadian men and their families that they are not alone in their daily fight to combat this illness, but more needs to be done,” Conservative MP Jim Abbott said at the time.

Layton said he’ll be taking a little time with his granddaughter Beatrice this summer, but it’ll more likely be in the confines of his Toronto riding than on the northern whitewater rapids he and wife Olivia Chow like to navigate.