Former Tory leadership candidate named to CBC's board

The Conservatives appointed new directors to the board that oversees the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, one of whom is Brian Mitchell, a Montreal-based lawyer who once ran against Joe Clark for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. Mitchell also ran unsuccessfully in 2005 against Manitoban Don Plett for the leadership of the Conservative Party but has served since then as a Quebec director on the Conservative Party’s national council.

The party says Mitchell has now resigned so that he can become a member of the board of directors of CBC.

In addition to Mitchell, the Conservatives also appointed Linda Black who, the press release says, is “a member of the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness, a member of the Law Enforcement Review Board of Alberta, and governor for the Board of Governors of Mount Royal College”, and Mary McNeil, “the president and chief executive officer of the BC Cancer Foundation.”

In the meantime, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is about to publish its report on “The Role of a Public Broadcaster in the 21st Century.” The Conservatives make up the minority on that Committee and it is believed that there will be dissenting views in the report that will soon be published.

The Heritage Committee meets on Tuesday next week to finalize the wording of their report.



Musicians want to add $5 a month to your Internet bill

My former colleague Vito Pilieci has a nice little scoop in today's Canwest papers: A musician's group will put forward an idea today that it hopes will solve the illegal music downloading debate: Make every Internet user in Canada pay $5 a month to a musician's fund and, in exchange, you can download all the music you want for free. Seriously.

The Songwriters Association of Canada will reveal a proposal Thursday that would see every Canadian's monthly Internet bill increase by $5 in exchange for the ability to download as many “illegal” music files as they choose.

The SAC says its proposal, which would require federal approval, would wipe out the need for music-selling Web sites such as and, making it legal for one person to share a music CD with as many people as he or she might wish.

“That's a very reasonable amount of money to legally, without fear of any legal repercussions, to be able to download that and share it with [whomever] you want to and as many times as you want,” said Eddie Schwartz, president of the songwriters' group. “On iTunes to download one album, it's $10. This is half of that and this is pretty reasonable to have access to the entire repertoire of Western music.”

Pankaj Mishra

“The victories of the Cold War – and the giddy speculation that history had reached the ideological terminus of liberal democracy – revived illusions of omnipotence among an Anglo-American political and media elite that has always known very little about the modern world it claims to have made. Consequently, almost every event since the end of the Cold War – the rise of radical Islam, of India and China, the assertiveness of oil-rich Russia, Iran and Venezuela – has come as a shock, a rude reminder that the natives of Delhi, Cairo and Beijing have geopolitical ambitions of their own, not to mention a sense of history marked by resentment and suspicion of the metropolitan West. The liberal internationalists persist, trying to revive the Wilsonian moment in places where Anglo-American liberalism has been seen as an especially aggressive form of hypocrisy. Increasingly, however, they expose themselves as the new provincials, dangerously blundering about in a volatile world.”

– Mishra, Pankaj “Ordained as a Nation”, London Review of Books, Feb. 21, 2008, viewed online at:

"Sharia comes for the Archibishop"

Interesting piece in the current edition of The Weekly Standard by Stephen Schwartz who casts a critical eye at the call earlier this week by Rowan Williams, who, because he is the Archbishop of Canterbury is the global leader of the Anglican Communion, for official recognition in Britain of sharia or Islamic religious law:

What the archbishop ignored is that British Muslim radicals raise the demand for sharia as an ideological banner. They hope to separate Muslims from their non-Muslim neighbors, the easier to recruit and indoctrinate believers for jihadism . . .

sharia fanatics … want the public enforcement of religious decrees. Obligatory sharia for Muslims, enforced by the British state, is the ultimate threat implicit in Archbishop Williams's call for accommodation.

Schwartz, it ought to be noted, was once on the political left, but now describes himself as a political conservative. He not only underwent a political conversion; he is a religious convert as well. Born of Jewish and Protestant parents in Ohio, he is now a practising Muslim and earns a living mostly as the executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He has a book on Sufism coming out this fall. He has more to say in the Standard article about the introduction of sharia in the West:

Counterintuitive as it may seem, the Islamists' call for introduction of Islamic religious law in the West is an innovation, not heard in Europe or the United States before the radicalization of Muslims at the end of the 1970s. This is because it is actually a violation of traditional sharia, which commands that Muslims living in non-Muslim lands obey the law and respect the customs of the host countries. This requirement is spelled out, for instance, in the sharia volume A Code of Practice for Muslims in the West (1999), which quotes the moderate Iraqi Shia ayatollah Ali Sistani pronouncing that Muslims living in non-Muslim nations must commit themselves “to abide by the laws of that country,” as they implicitly promise to do when they sign an immigration form. If they cannot do this, they should return to Muslim territory . .

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Screw tightens on PR function at DND

David Pugliese, the Ottawa Citizen's well-connected defence reporter, says Sandra Buckler and her communications shop within the Prime Minister's Office will exert even more control over the public affairs function at the Department of National Defence in advance of a federal election.

“This new process explains why the public is seeing a lot of sentences such as “Defence officials were not available to comment” or “Military officials could not comment” in media reports these days as the PMO/PCO approval process for the emailed statements for reporters can take anywhere between two days and three weeks. Those types of timelines are just not good enough to deal with the rapid pace of the 24-hour news cycle……..and critics of the Canadian Forces have been able to take advantage of the lack of response from DND/CF since they are able to get their points across unchallenged in news stories and broadcasts.

Josee Touchette, DND’s assistant deputy minister for public affairs, is on the record stating there has been no change whatsoever regarding the policy in dealing with media inquiries. But even her own public affairs officers roll their eyeballs on that laughable claim.”

Pugliese also has a pointer to an article by Sharon Hobson, who has impeccable credentials as a journalist covering the Canadian defence establishment. Hobson writes in the current newsletter of the “pro-military” (to use Pugliese's adjective) Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute.

The 1998 openness policy may still be on the books, but its implementation has been unrecognizably corrupted. The chances of getting an answer to a direct question are slim, and the chances of getting an actual interview with someone are slimmer. In fact, on many questions, the DND's method of dealing with the media is not to deal with them at all.

… You may have noticed more and more media stories contain some version of the line “the Department of National Defence did not return calls”.

Find someone who will talk about the shutout, and they will point the finger at the Privy Council Office (PCO) and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The civilians at the top are asserting their control and the word has come down that no one in the military is to speak to the media without specific clearance.

And that “word” is verbal. There is no written guidance on how to ignore the media. Rather, everyone is being told that if media inquiries concern “a regional or national issue” (it's not clear what would not be covered by this description) then any DND communication must be cleared by the “the centre” (PCO/PMO). How this works in practice is for the DND contact to write up a reporter's request for information with a proposed Media Response Line (MRL).

That is then sent to the PCO/PMO for approval. But instead of being approved and sent back, it sits in a pile somewhere. When the reporter gets fed up waiting and calls again, the DND is not able to offer a response because the official process is now underway for dealing with a written inquiry and the response has not yet been approved. Requests for interviews are routinely denied in lieu of PCO/PMO approved written “bullets”. So instead of being able to have a broad discussion with a DND project manager, the reporter receives one or two carefully crafted sentences which allow for no interpretation or selective quoting … [Read the whole sad story]

Grand Old White Party no match for Obama

Frank Rich, the unapologetic Democrat and influential columnist, figures that if it's Obama against McCain this fall, the G.O.P. is about to get thumped. McCain and the G.O.P., he argues, are simply too white. There is not, for example, a single black Republican in the Congress or Senate and black Republicans make up less than 4 per cent of G.O.P. primary voters. But it's not just Obama's color, it's his appeal – a result of his youth and rhetorical magic – to the so-called millennial generation. In Rich's view, that combination will be too much for Hillary and definitely too much for a “Grumpy Old White Guy” named McCain.

Europe eyes America's skies

Almost certainly, there will soon be fewer U.S. airlines, as Delta, Northwest and many others, large and small, are driven to combine their businesses as a way to deal with high oil prices, a drooping U.S. dollar, and aggressive European competitors.

But the Europeans are not only trying to steal passengers from American carriers. Air France, Lufthansa, and British Airways will likely buy a piece of America's biggest airlines and may push U.S. lawmakers to lift limits that restrict foreign control to 25 per cent.

BusinessWeek reporter Dean Foust fingers cash-rich Air France as the most likely foreigner now looking at American opportunities. He thinks Air France will join in any Delta-Northwest combination; Lufthansa will want to be part of a United-Continental combination and British Airways could partner up with American Airlines or a regional carrier. Meanwhile, in Canada, ACE Aviation Holdings Inc., which owns Air Canada, is entertaining offers for that airline, believing that its stock market value does not reflect the value of the business. Canada, too, restricts foreign ownership of Air Canada to 25 per cent.

Indicting Oscar

Richard Corliss indicts Oscar, arguing that the Academy Awards are lousy at picking what is best about film and not always that great even picking commercial hits. Corliss blames Oscar's 5,800 voters — the Academy membership — who, he says, are insular and aging, live mostly in Los Angeles, and seem to respond all too easily to studio politicking and lobbying. Corliss lists Oscar's biggest failures: Citizen Kane was nearly shut out (winning only best screenplay); no foreign film has ever won best picture; and Martin Scorsese took forever to win his first. For the millions who will watch Oscars awaded later this month, this is a great pre-program primer.

Well, that's it for HD DVD … Wal-mart picks Blu-Ray

New York Times reporters Matt Richtel and Eric Taub phrase it nicely:

HD DVD, the beloved format of Toshiba and three Hollywood studios, died Friday after a brief illness.

The cause of death was determined to be the decision by Wal-Mart to stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format.

There are no funeral plans, but retailers and industry analysts are already writing the obituary for HD DVD.

The announcement by Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer of DVDs, that it would stop selling the discs and machines in June when supplies are depleted comes after decisions this week by Best Buy, the largest electronics retailer, to promote Blu-ray as its preferred format and Netflix, the DVD-rental service, to stock only Blu-ray movies, phasing out HD DVD by the end of this year.

Last year, Target, one of the top sellers of electronics, discontinued selling HD DVD players in its stores, but continued to sell them online.

“The fat lady has sung,” said Rob Enderle, a technology industry analyst in Silicon Valley. “Wal-Mart is the biggest player in the DVD market. If it says HD DVD is done, you can take that as a fact.” … [ Read the full story ]

The bill for Lebanon…

I think this info is already out there, but, in case it isn't …

Just had a chance to review a “House Card” prepared in the fall of 2006 for then-Foreign Affairs Minister MacKay but which was released to me under an Access to Information request more than a year later on Dec. 7, 2007. House Cards are 1-2 page briefing notes prepared by departmental staff each day on a 'hot' issue that bureaucrats believe the minister may be forced to talk about in the House of Commons during Question Period or in response to a question from a reporter. These cards relate to evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006:

  • What were the costs for the emergency evacuation of Canadian Citizens from Lebanon in the summer of 2006? From July 16 to August 15,2006, the GoC evacuated 14,982 people from Lebanon. At present, the Department estimates its total cost of the evacuation to be approximately $66 million.
  • Additional costs of approximately $10 million were incurred by DND, PSEPC, CIC, CBSA, and the RCMP. The cost per person evacuated is approximately $4,400. The Government was fully aware that there would be significant costs associated with an evacuation effort of this magnitude. However, getting Canadians out of harm's way was a priority and it was the right thing to do. This was a tremendously successful effort accomplished under difficult circumstances. Will there be costs associated with the evacuation of Canadian citizens by other countries?.
  • In the spirit of cooperation, 943 Canadians were evacuated by other countries and Canada evacuated 762 indivuduals from 28 countries. No costs are expected following the evacuation of Canadians by other countries nor will Canada charge for the use of available capacity to assist in the evacuation of other nationals.
  • The costs to the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada are as follows:
  • transportation (air planeslships charter) $57.0 million
  • travel public servants 4.3 million
  • salaries, wages, overtime 2.3 million
  • rental of vehicles and other 0.6 million
  • protection services 0.2 million
  • health and welfare services 0.2 million
  • contracted services 0.2 million
  • telecommunications and other services 0.1 million
  • Passport Canada expenses 0.1 million
  • miscellaneous expenses 0.8 million