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2006 Commentaries
Canada's Official Faith Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
A government resolution to re-enact the homosexual marriage debate was defeated in Parliament last week, by a vote of 175 to 123.

No one was surprised. The resolution was expected to fail. Prime Minister Harper was simply keeping a pledge to social conservatives that he’d reopen the question.The two big leadership votes in Canada this past weekend ended the same way.
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The difficult choice facing Premier Ed Stelmach Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
The two big leadership votes in Canada this past weekend ended the same way.

Pulled between diverging front runners, the federal Liberals and Alberta’s Conservatives both opted for compromise candidates.

In Alberta, the clash between Jim Dinning and Ted Morton moved the party in large numbers to third-place candidate Ed Stelmach, whose organization and positioning were superb.
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Why Alberta -- and Canada -- need Ted Morton to be premier Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
All through last year’s Alberta centennial, and during this leadership contest, we’ve often heard from many people what a glorious past our province has -- and what a wonderful future.

But they never say what’s so special about it.

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Hand it to Stephen Harper -- he has a plan Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
In politics, as in canoeing and trout fishing, you have to “read the river.” This means scanning the froth and chatter of the surface for tell-tale signs of what’s actually going on down below.

Here’s one tell-tale sign.

According the front page of last Friday’s Toronto Star, in the past two weeks Harper has met quietly with the premiers of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick -- and telephoned several others -- to “discreetly sound out” the possibility of an astonishingly bold proposal.
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The strange death-wish of the Liberal party Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

I should think that Stephen Harper these days must feel like the luckiest man in the world.

All the Liberal leadership candidates look so eminently beatable.

Especially boy wonder Michael Ignatieff, the expatriate academic and political amateur who’s likeliest to win.

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The first duty of the Senate Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
In September Alberta Senator Tommy Banks, along with three Senate colleagues and three staff, were marooned for seven days in Dubai, with nowhere to go and no one to see, each paying $500 a night at a five-star hotel overlooking the Persian Gulf.

The senators wanted to go fact-finding in Afghanistan, but were told before they left Canada they would not be allowed in because the situation is too dangerous. But they had their hearts set on the trip...

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Ottawa should leave unemployment insurance to the provinces Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
It’s said that in life you get what you pay for. Including unemployment.

Globe and Mail columnist Neil Reynolds drew attention last week to an important recent study about the long-term effects of unemployment insurance. It provides more proof (if more were needed) that Ottawa should leave social policy to the provinces.*

In the U.S., unemployment is a state concern, in Canada it’s federal. So how do two jurisdictions compare which share a common border, common resources, and half a century of dissimilar unemployment insurance?

The conclusions are striking.

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What the Calgary Congress accomplished Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
The assembly of several hundred citizens from across Canada at the Calgary Congress last weekend was nothing if not unusual.

To see so many lay people engaged -- passionately -- in questions of economics and history was truly remarkable. It was remarkable to witness federalists standing up to cheer a western separatist, and to see separatists seeking to reform and preserve the federation.

The lesson of the weekend was that the key to Canada’s future lies in her past.
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One national council we don't need Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
A report emerged two weeks ago (August 24) from the National Council of Welfare. It said that welfare recipients deserve more money, and it accused everyone in sight -- Ottawa, the provinces and Canadians in general -- of being negligent, judgmental and cheap.

Well, maybe we are all those bad things and maybe we're not, but I have a question: why is there a federal National Council of Welfare at all -- welfare being an exclusively provincial jurisdiction?
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Is western separation inevitable? Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
I always get a kick out of Roger Gibbins, political scientist, newspaper columnist, and current president of the Canada West Foundation.

A week ago (August 21) he was in the Toronto Star predicting $200 oil and the separation of Alberta, followed by B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Perhaps he was merely suggesting it could happen. He presented it as a hypothetical scenario, with a lot of fanciful details.
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The difference between Americans and Canadians Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
Today, after a mid-summer month off, we resume publication of our weekly Citizens Centre column.

Most of this past month we spent finalizing arrangements for the Calgary Congress, which promises to be a gangbusters national event. (www.calgarycongress.ca)

But I did get away last week to Wyoming with my wife Joanne and my 13-year-old daughter Elise.

Wyoming is one of the Rocky Mountain rangeland states. You drive for miles and miles through sagebrush hills, sparse grass and prickly pear cactus -- past red, rocky cliffs and buttes, cattle, and hundreds of wild antelope and deer. (Whoever wrote about the deer and the antelope playing in “Home on the Range” wasn’t kidding -- but they should stop doing it on the highway.)
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A tale of two bridges Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006
In response to last week’s column we heard from a man named Ray.

By happenstance Ray was recently able to compare traffic on the big Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver with two impressive federally-subsidized four-lane bridges in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

He reports, “There was more traffic on the B.C. bridge after midnight than there was on either bridge in Fredericton during mid-week rush hour.”

He got thinking about whether it’s fair to make people in Vancouver pay for bridges in Fredericton.
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Constitutional amendment is always difficult and sometimes essential Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

Anyone who still doubts that Canadians will soon be going back to the Constitution should consider a column by Robert Sibley in this morning’s Ottawa Citizen (“Why those charting Canada's future cannot forget the past”).

Sibley notices that everyone, from scholars to the Prime Minister, is being drawn reluctantly back to the Constitution “like lemmings to the cliff.”

The problem is that while we may not relish the subject, we have unfinished constitutional business going back fifty years which cannot be ignored.
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We should love our provinces as much as our country Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

Saturday was Canada Day, and brought with it the obligatory media lecture about why we should count our national blessings.

Well, of course we should. But in addition we should reflect on where we’re going.
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Ask not what Ottawa can do for you Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

We received an interesting response to last week’s column, “The equitable solution for Equalization is to get rid of it.”

It’s interesting because the writer illustrates how good intentions wreck a constitution, and eventually a country.

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The equitable solution for Equalization is to get rid of it Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

Canada’s great federal Equalization debate wrapped up for the summer in Edmonton two weeks ago, with the premiers in a foul mood.

In fact they were hardly speaking.

What a truly Canadian debate this is: ten strangers angrily quarrelling over someone else’s money.

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Canada’s real war is with itself Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

You see an amazing number of those yellow-ribbon “support our troops” magnets on cars these days.

Not since I went to Washington and the southern states during the build-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003 have I seen so many.

Americans, of course, always seem to be at war with someone, or just taking a breather. It’s the price of empire.

Nations have characters, just like individual people, and America is by nature combative, assertive, excitable, patriotic, and sometimes incredibly generous.

But now we’re at war too, against the same enemy -- Islam in arms.
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Harper gambles on Senate reform Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

At long, long last, Ottawa has begun to reform the Senate.

You can’t rush history. It only took about thirty years of asking.

The Harper government introduced a Bill last week which, if passed, will limit the appointment of future senators to eight-year terms.

This is the first small step.
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Why Atlantic Canada doesn't work Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

In Souris, an hour east of Charlottetown, PEI, a seafood plant can't find workers.

In fact the Ocean Choice plant was so desperate to keep up to the incoming catch it has brought in 19 Russians and 20 Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, almost 11% of PEI residents are officially unemployed -- defined by Employment Insurance as actively seeking and available for work.

But not for processing lobster at $9.40 an hour.
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If politics were hockey, Harper would be Wayne Gretzky Print E-mail
Just Between Us - 2006

I know government isn’t supposed to look like hockey, but I’m starting to enjoy the aggressive stick-handling style of our new Calgary prime minister.

Team Harper is scoring so many short-handed goals in Parliament you’d almost think they came from Edmonton.

For example, they won the Gwyn Morgan play last week. A truly awesome goal.
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