The company CHOGM keeps (or fails to keep)

The summit is called the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit or CHOGM. And yet, there were lots of heads of government that didn't bother to show.

The single biggest country in the Commonwealth, India, where 1.2 billion of the Commonwealth's 2.1 billion people live, passed. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh begged off, saying he's old, and he's got the G20 summit in France next week and APEC in Hawaii almost right after that. Of course, as everyone in the Australian press has howled, no Indian PM has touched Australian soil in 25 years and this is just more evidence of how lousy Indian-Australian relations are right now.

OK, so you don't got India. You've got the prime ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom, right? What's that? They're leaving early? Oh dear. It seems UK Prime Minister David Cameron will be jetting back to Britain Saturday evening, a day before CHOGM officially ends on Sunday at about 2 pm Perth time. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was planning to stay and leave at 10 pm on Sunday night but, as the final communique from CHOGM will be signed and sealed some time late Saturday night, he's moved up his getaway time to noon on Sunday UPDATE: The work leaders came here to do is progressing much more slowly, PMO officials said Saturday night, and, as a result, Harper has reverted to his original plan which will him see stay right through the end of the summit.

And New Zealand's PM had to send regrets. Prime Minister John Key is in the middle of a writ period — a general election — and quite rightly has to stay home so he can win the right to come to more CHOGMs. (Key has actually been accused of not showing up here at CHOGM to hobnob with the Queen so he could hobnob instead with, er, hobbits.)

So when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard looks around the table when she brings down the gavel tomorrow afternoon to close CHOGM 11, she will not see prime ministers from the United Kingdom, India, Canada, and New Zealand.

In addition to those, 17 members of the Commonwealth didn't even bother to send their head of government, dispatching,instead, foreign ministers, vice-presidents, or high commissioners.

All in: Just 35 of 54 Heads of Government attended this weekend's Heads of Government summit.

Queen Elizabeth II was here though! Though, she too, had to leave early, jetting back to England just after lunch on Saturday.


Is a UN Security Council seat more important to Australia than playing human rights hardball at the Commonwealth?

Columnist Laurie Oakes in the (Australian) Daily Telegraph suggests that the $60 million that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government has spent hosting this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit here in Perth, Australia is really just a PR exercise to win votes at the United Nations among world’s developing countries to win a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013-1014. Continue reading Is a UN Security Council seat more important to Australia than playing human rights hardball at the Commonwealth?

Harper, at CHOGM, presents painting to Queen Elizabeth II

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had an audience with Queen Elizabeth II while the two were at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit here in Perth, Australia. Here's a note from the PMO about the gift:

Queen painting

The painting (left) is “Canadian Foresters in Windsor Park” by Gerald Edward Moira.

On July 2nd 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

During the tour, this painting caught the Duke’s eye and he paused to note the silhouette of Windsor Castle. The painting depicts the 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion working below Windsor Castle. The fluttering flag on the roof indicates that His Majesty King George V is in residence.

In 1922 Moira's biographer described the painting as “a record of loyal labour, an epic strength, with all of which it unites the qualities of highest art and powerful decoration.”

Today, Canadian Foresters in Windsor Park is part of Canada’s First World War collection of nearly 1,000 paintings.

Background on the Canadian Forestry Battalion: On the 19th February 1916, the Secretary of State for the Colonies cabled to the Governor General of Canada to the effect that His Majesty's Government would be grateful if the Canadian Government would assist in the production of timber for war purposes, and asked if a Battalion of Lumbermen could be raised and sent overseas to exploit the forest of Great Britain.

The immediate formation of the 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion resulted, and within three months the Battalion was mobilized shipped overseas.

On the 21st November, 1916, the Forestry Units were banded together to form “The Canadian Forestry Corps,” which at the cessation of hostilities had grown to a strength of practically 30,000 all ranks.

The operations in Great Britain are divided into five Districts – three in England and two in Scotland.  Each District has its own Headquarters to which each of its Companies reports and altogether there where 41 Companies operating, including 3 at work for the Royal Air Force on the construction of aerodromes.


CHOGM opening ceremony: Some pix

The 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit is underway with an opening ceremony featuring Australian dancers, singers, and a speech by the Queen. I'm in the media room at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre watching the proceedings on closed circuit. These pix were snapped off the closed-circuit TV using my trusty BlackBerry:


Above: Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes the stage at the opening ceremony.


Above: Australian PM Julia Gillard and Queen Elizabeth II arrive on stage at the opening ceremony.


Above: Australian PM Julia Gillard and Queen Elizabeth II arrive on stage at the opening ceremony.


Above: The Queen and Prince Philip arrive outside the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and are greeted by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (in red).


Above: The Media Centre inside the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Wheat board director quits in disgust to side with Ottawa to break up monopsony

Henry Vos, has just quit as a director of the Canadian Wheat Board. Here's why:

October 26, 2011

Dear Fellow Farmers and Friends,

Today I made the very difficult decision to resign effective immediately as the director of District 1 of the Canadian Wheat Board. In a letter to CWB Chairman Allen Oberg, I expressed my deep regret in coming to the realization that I can no longer serve my constituents and Western Canadian grain farmers in general from within the organization.

Driven by a lifetime of commitment and passion for agriculture, I sought a directorship with the CWB because I wanted to bring about change for the benefit of farmers. I fully understood the CWB’s mandate and tried to improve its programs and services to farmers under that mandate. I saw many opportunities to provide farmers more freedom, flexibility and transparency, however, was in many cases treated as though my ideas would cause the destruction of the organization.

During my terms as director, I saw the decisions of many directors driven by hard-line ideology rather than business acumen. When those directors continually used pool account money to justify and support their views for a single desk, I found this “ideological bullying” unacceptable.

The CWB’s decision this week to launch a legal challenge against the Federal Government over the proposed changes to the CWB ACT, when it is clear to everyone that it will not change the outcome and would not change the timing of the government action, is simply wrong. A previous decision to suspend a director for simply expressing his opinion about the August “information meeting” is simply wrong. And the decision to allow a motion on the table to change the bylaw requiring a 2/3 majority to remove a director is simply wrong. Such decisions and other discussions that have taken place around the CWB table are not about doing what is best for commercial farmers—they are the decisions taken by “ideological bullies.”

What is happening at the CWB today is, in a word, wrong. To continue to work within the existing dysfunctional CWB board would be a disservice to those who voted me for me as their director. It would also be a disservice to all the farmers who want change and an option of using a voluntary CWB.

Furthermore, at this time protecting the single desk “at all costs”, is in my view, destroying future opportunities, harming the reputation of the farmers, demoralizing staff and creating uncertainty with customers and the industry, all of which will cost farmers money.

I believe the Government of Canada’s efforts to change the CWB are in the best interests of Western Canadian grain producers and I will support their efforts and the efforts of other organizations and individuals committed to bring about positive change for Western Canadian farmers.

Meanwhile, I thank you for support and understanding.


Henry Vos

Hello from Honolulu! Notes en route to CHOGM

Once every two years, the heads of government of the British Commonwealth meet. This meeting is called the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit or CHOGM, for short. One pronounces it cho-gum.

This year, CHOGM is to be held in Perth, Australia. I am typing this en route to that great western Australia city. I am in the back of what we call RCAF 01, a big passenger jet that that air force officially classifies as a Polaris CC-150. In fact, it's really just  a rather old-fashioned Airbus A310 that has some military-grade avionics, a coat of that grey-green RCAF paint,  and a special cabin up front for the prime minister (and, in this case, his wife).

Canada PM Airbus cabin

The picture on the left, incidentally, is a rare snap inside the prime ministerial cabin but it was taken in 2010. It's changed slightly and just recently. The seat covers have been replaced in the PM's cabin and elsewhere in the plane. Instead of the dark blue, there is a lighter shade, though still, dark with a pattern on it. Other than that, it's still pretty much as is, complete with the faux-wood panelling that was so popular as an installation option in the basements of so many Canadian homes in the early 1970s.

And while I'm on the topic of our perfectly functional but rather shopworn little green donkey (as I affectionately call RCAF 01): I know we're living in a time of austerity and that many ministers are being beaten about the head for over-using the fleet of RCAF Challenger jets. But we're a G8 country and this is the plane our leader runs around in. The US has Air Force One built by an American company, Boeing. The Indians also put their guy in a 747 trimmed with national colours. The Japanese PM flies with not one 747 but two! I could go on… And when we show up at world summits, there's our little green donkey parked on the tarmac next to countries who don't mind showing off a bit by buying their leader a decent plane. Perhaps we could spend a few bucks to show off a Canadian plane manufacturer like Bombardier? Plus this 10-hour trip to Honolulu is right at the end of this Airbus' range. To get to Perth or China or India, our PM has to refuel three times! Couldn't we get a fuel-efficient aircraft that can get our PM from one side of the world to the other with fewer GGEs and without having to refuel? I know: Wishful thinking. We don't have the money for hospital beds or the unemployed. And you're probably right.

As it is: we are about 4 hours out of Ottawa as I type this and still have a little more than 6 hours to go until our first of two refueling stops. The first is in Honolulu, Hawaii. (If all goes well, that's where I will see my first IP address in 10 hours and from where this will be posted) After spending 90 minutes to fill up the green donkey we have 8 hours and 10 minutes in the air to arrive at our second fuel stop in Noumea, New Caledonia where we will fill 'er up again before spending another 7 hours and 50 minutes in the air to get us to Perth.

So we will have left Ottawa at 1720 ET on TUE OCT 25 and will have arrived at our final destination at 2300 ET on WED OCT 27. But that's Ottawa time. When we arrive, it will be 11 a.m. on THU OCT 28 and, though we will have spent 30 hours in a plane, we will all be getting right to work. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will emerge from his cabin (above) where he will have enjoyed a bed and a shower, armed with a new speech to be delivered to the CHOGM business forum. Journalists and political staff will be leaping up from our economy seats in the back of the plane to proceed directly from the airport to the convention centre where, two hours after deplaning, Harper will deliver this speech. Then, somewhere around 3 a.m. Ottawa time on THU OCT 28 / 3 p.m. Perth time, we will get to our hotel in Perth. I'm not complaining! Just sayin' is all. Honour to cover Canada's PM overseas all, yadda, yadda, yadda ….

And I should point out here, because it often comes up, that the media accompanying Harper on RCAF 01 are paying their way. The bill for airfare, hotels in Perth, and so on comes to several thousand dollars for each reporter, cameraperson and technician on board. Some of the major news organizations in the Parliamentary Press Gallery such as The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star have opted not to pay that fee and are not present for this trip to CHOGM in Perth. The news organizations that have ponied up to dispatch a reporter on this 30-hour ride out to Perth and 30-hour ride back include Sun Media (that's me), Postmedia, Canadian Press, CBC English television, CBC English Radio, CBC French television, CTV, and Global Television. That's it. No Maclean's. No No Le Devoir.

As for what to expect in CHOGM: Not sure. I'm blessed to have been to enough summits now to know that if you stick to the stories you expect to write on your way there, you will miss the stories that are actually happening while you're there. That said: We have a few things we're keen to track:

  • Will the Commonwealth nations accept the recommendations of an “Eminent Persons Group” (which included Canada's Conservative Senator Hugh Segal) and make changes to improve the Commonwealth's ability to encourage the rule of law, democracy, and human rights among its members? Among other things, this group is recommending the creation of a Commissioner of Democracy. Surely that would be a world's first.
  • In more than 40 of the Commonwealth's 53 countries it is illegal to be gay. Honest to god. That's wrong. And Canada would like to see some countires change that, particularly given rising homophobic violence in places like Uganda and Cameroon, our Commonwealth cousins.
  • Speaking of human rights: A United Nations panel said there is “credible” evidence that Sri Lanka's army committed war crimes against its own civilians in 2009 as that country's 25-year civil war was coming to an end. Many, including Canada, say Sri Lanka must face up to its past and investigate these allegations. Sri Lanka's response to global calls for such an investigation? Screw you. Ain't gonna happen. Ok, but when Sri Lanka hosts the next CHOGM, in 2013 in Colombo, they won't see Canada there. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already said he won't go until Sri Lanka's government does the right thing. Wonder if any other Commonwealth cousins have the same cojones to call Sri Lanka out.
  • Can British monarchs marry Roman Catholics? Nope. If Will and Kate have three girls in the next five years and then have a son seven years from now, how come the son becomes heir to the British throne and not the three girls? That's the way it's been, I'm afraid, since 1701 when the Act of Settlement banned monarchs from marrying Roman Catholics and gave male offspring first dibs on the throne over their older female siblings. UK PM David Cameron, though, is ready to change that — and Queen Elizabeth II is down with his plan. (She's already in Australia and will be there to preside over CHOGM) Now all Cameron needs is the approval of all the “realms” that recognize the British monarch as their head of state — Canada would be one of those 16 or so realms — and it seems a done deal that such approval will be given, enabling Cameron to present legislation to his House of Commons to amend the 1701 Act of Settlement and give it a 21st century freshener.
  • Other than that: Australian columnists are making a big deal out of the fact that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blown off this summit. The population of all Commonwealth countries is about 2 billion and 1.2 billion of them live in PM Singh's country. He's old, he says. And he has to go to the G20 in France a couple of days after CHOGM. And then there's the APEC meetings in Hawaii he needs to attend a few days after that. Too much travel. The Australian press,on the other hand, says Singh is snubbing Aussie PM Julia Gillard's government and that Singh's failure to attend is a failure of Australian diplomacy with arguably the most important player in Southeast Asia/Oceania.
  • We're back in time for trick-or-treating in Ottawa on Monday. Should be a fun few days.

Hundreds of billions to bail out Europe: "like using public funds to support your local casino"

Eurozone leaders are meeting this weekend trying to figure out how and what they can do about their financial crisis. On Friday, BMO Capital Markets chief economist Sherry Cooper sent around this note [pdf], summing up what, it seemed to me, was the consensus view on Bay Street about what the Europeans need to do (my emphasis):

There is no way this Sunday’s summit or the one after that will provide all that is needed to really deal with the European Debt Crisis. The true litmus test for credibility is a writedown of Greek debt of €200 billion, a recapitalization plan of €200 billion, and an increase in the effective capacity of the EFSF to €1 trillion. Anything short of this extends the crisis and suggests the Europeans still don’t get it or at least not enough to accept the real price tag of the mess they are in.

So far, not so good (at 7 pm GMT in any event): There has been squabbling between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. As for the benchmarks that Cooper (and others) set out, none have been reached. European finance ministers agreed to a recapitalization plan for the banks of just €100 billion – half what is needed to be seen as “credible”.

Meanwhile, an economist is quoted in the very last paragraph of a front page piece in the New York Times today which looks at the bailout of one Belgian bank, Dexia, and wonders if this is not simply nuts:

Walker F. Todd, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research and a former official at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said governments were setting a troubling precedent when they bailed out a company and paid its trading partners in full, as occurred with A.I.G. and as might occur with Dexia.
“In the short run, it would help if the authorities would say they refuse to provide publicly funded money for the payoffs of derivatives,” he said. “This is like using public funds to support your local casino. It is difficult to see how this is good for society in the long run.”

Implementing Canada's Economic Action Plan: The ACOA experience

In 2009, I filed access-to-information requests to each regional economic development agency asking how they implemented “Economic Action Plan” funds provided to them. Here's some notes from some of the records provided to me through that ATI request from ACOA:

[Notes from ACOA ATI request A-2009-0012, Partial release of records made Feb. 2, 2011]

  • The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency was given authority, through Budget 2009, to spend $100.4 million in the Fiscal 2010 and Fiscal 2011 out of the $1 billion Community Adjustment Fund (CAF).
  • ACOA says that, in Nova Scotia, it turned to the province for advice on where to spend this money, specifically to Nova Scotia's Department of Rural and Economic Development, to various regional development authorities, and then to resource-focused provincial government departments such as the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the NS Dept of Natural Resources
  • “52% of PEI businesses have less than 5 employees, and 75% have less than 10.” (p 376)
  • Projects in Halifax were excluded from CAF eligibility: “HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) is the only region of the province not eligible for the program. This results from the program eligibility requirement that a community can be considered if its population is 250,000 or less and the fact that all HRM is one community. The result is that a number of rural areas within the municipality will be excluded despite the perception among many in these areas that they should fit – rural in nature, a distance from the urban core, and the local economy affected by the downturn in resource industries.” (p 428)
  • ACOA officials note that there is much greater demand for CAF assistance than there is funds available.
  • When it comes to forestry industry assistance, ACOA officals are concerned that it appear that both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are being treated fairly by the federal government. But ACOA also notes that, in deciding where it will apply federal funding in the sector, it will be important that ACOA funding does not merely “displace existing provincial funding.” Finally: ACOA says federal funding of the forestry sector should be provided on a matching basis to provincial funding. (p 502)
  • In correspondence dated May 5, 2009, ACOA President Monique Collette recommended to Minister Ketih Ashfield the following (dollar figures have been blacked out by ACOA ATI censors):
    • “That ACOA/ECBC proceed with developing a XXX million silviculture project with DNR. The benefits of this effort are many…and go a long way to addressing the objective of the CAF.”
  • On August 27, 2009, the federal and provincial governments announced a $14 million investment in Nova Scotia's forestry sector, half coming from ACOA and Enterprise Cape Breton (another federal agency) and half from the provincial government.
  • As of June 2009, ACOA assistance to the Atlantic Canadian forestry sector since 1998 totals $76 million. (p 515)
  • “In total, the forest industry contributes an estimated 4.5% to Atlantic Canada's GDP, produces the most significant source of export earnings after the energy sector ($3.1 billion in 2007) and employs about 28,500 people around the region, about 70% of whom live in rural areas.” (p 517)
  • Of the $100 million or so ACOA received for CAF projects, it set aside $8 million for the lobster industry. (p 521)
  • ACOA officials believe the $8 million would best be spent on finding new markets for lobster products. In July 2009, ACOA is pushing for the creation for a single national industry voice to co-ordinate programs and encourage industry diversification, something they wish to call the “Canadian Lobster Council”
  • Sure enough, by October 2009, the governments of Quebec, Canada and the four Atlantic Canada provinces have agreed to create the Lobster Council of Canada.
  • Budget 2009 creates the $500 million Recreational Infrastructure Fund (RiNC). ACOA's allocation from this fund is $12 million over two years. A subsequent undated memo (p. 1057) says Atlantic Canada's RiNC allocation is $34.7 million.
  • As for RiNC: “Projects that may be considered include the rehabilitation of a football field at a University as well as the redevelopment of a race track in a local town. ACOA has adopted a performance measurement strategy that will enable the Agency to respond to Treasury Board reporting requirements.”
  • Budget 2009 created the $500 million Building Canada – Communities Component. ACOA program officers say the Atlantic Region's share of the fund was snapped up almost immediately: “In Atlantic Canada, the initial allocation represented $148.33M and is expected to be fully committed by the end of 2009. Early indications from some of our regional offices state that the top-up allocation will be accessed as soon as summer or fall of 2009.”  (p 1043)

On youth and voting: Or how the failure of youth to vote made Stephen Harper prime minister

The Canadian Policy Research Network is no more but the Web site is still up and that's where you can find the following paper: Brenda O'Neill, “Indifferent or Just Different? The Political and Civic Engagement of Young People in Canada“, Canadian Policy Research Networks, June 2007

O'Neill assesses young people and politics:

Young Canadians display a pattern of civic and political engagement that differentiates them from other Canadians. They are less likely to vote, are less likely to be members of political parties and interest groups, are less interested in politics and know less about politics than other Canadians.

Young Canadians are not, however, indifferent to politics. On the contrary, they show levels of engagement in non-traditional political activities – signing petitions, boycotting and buycotting – that are similar to those of other Canadians. They are also more likely than other Canadians to participate in political demonstrations, to volunteer and to be members of a group or organization. Rather than being indifferent or apathetic, their engagement is merely different.

My gut instinct is that this was a pretty accurate description when O'Neill wrote this in 2007 and continues to be so as we get set to close out 2011. Despite the so-called “Occupy” protests and any number of other interesting demonstrations involving young people, such as the vote mobs during the the federal election this year, we have seen only fractional change in Canada's political landscape in the last six months. The Harper Conservatives were returned to government, this time with a majority. The McGuinty Liberals were also returned to government in Ontario but this time with a minority. All in all, through seven federal, provincial, and territorial elections since May 2, the incumbent party has swept the table. We will shortly see a provincial election in Saskatchewan where the incumbent is again heavily favoured.

O'Neill argues that young people (in 2007 at least) possess “increased political sophistication” and she attributes this to measureably different ways young people have of engaging with politics. She says young people are experiencing “cognitive mobilization”. I'm not sure I understand what it is to be “cognitively mobilized” but I'm almost certainly sure that I disagree with her conclusion that young people today display an “increased political sophisticiation”. There are many, frequently valid, criticisms of Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system but the only way any person can demonstrate “political sophistication” is to actually vote. And young people have been voting less and less for a decade now.

Through the last four general elections, I have watched political operatives for the federal Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats and, believe me, they suss out pretty quickly who it is that is likely to vote and they tailor their politics to suit. Mainstream political parties know that young people, for all their “political sophistication” at boycotts and demonstrations, simply do not vote and, as a result, can be safely ignored.

That said: The party that figures out how to get young people to actually vote likely holds an immense advantage over their rivals and, as a result, all three of those aforementioned parties have different kinds of outreach to get young people to “occupy” a voting booth.

But are young people “politically sophisticated”? A “sophisticated” group of voters is one, presumably, that understands political processes and exercises influence over political actors at the appropriate time for appropriate effect

Pollster after pollster has found that, at the federal level, younger voters favour the Liberal or New Democratic Party by a wide margin over the Conservative Party. And yet, the Conservatives have won three elections in a row.

That's easily explained: O'Neill cites Elections Canada data that shows fewer than half of those eligible to vote and who were under the age of 30 at the time of the 2004 election actually voted. And yet, better than 2/3 of those over 50 for the same election voted. In the 2011 federal election, pollster Ekos [pdf] found that those under 25 were six times likelier to not vote than those over 65. Even those in Generation X were twice as likely to be non-voters than Baby Boomers. And, as Ekos noted: “Support for [the] Conservative Party is strongly linked to age.”

I've talked to some pollsters who say that if young people voted with anything close to the same frequency as older voters, Stephen Harper would never have been prime minister and Stéphane Dion may well have had the chance to bring in his carbon tax.

This fact alone, it seems to me, is proof enough that young people cannot be considered “politically sophisticated”.

Sophisticated voters will “occupy” a voting booth because that is still the best way for a citizenry to exercise political power.

Many of those excited by the “Occupy” movement have written to tell me that their protests are a response to the absence of real choice in the voting booth; that political parties on offer “were all the same” on May 2; that it seems no matter what they do on voting day, they never see the change they want.

Forget for a moment that it seems patently obvious that there's a world of difference between, say, Stephen Harper and Elizabeth May, and let us return to O'Neill who reminds us that older voters are actually much more cynical about the voting process — and yet they still vote!

In a 2000 IRPP survey, 81% of Canadians between the ages of 38 and 47 strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “Those elected to Parliament soon lose touch with the people,” 10 points more than those in the youngest age category. The lack of an elevated level of cynicism among the youngest Canadians is important because it underscores that lower levels of voter turnout cannot be accounted for by increased levels of political cynicism (Gidengil et al., 2003; O’Neill, 2003). In a related vein, research by Pammett and Leduc (2003) observes that young Canadian are less negative about various aspects of elections than are older Canadians, reinforcing results obtained elsewhere (O’Neill, 2001). Whereas 6% of Canadians aged 18 to 24 suggested that they lacked faith and confidence in candidates, parties and leaders, for example, the share among older Canadians ranged from 15% to 21% (Pammett and Leduc, 2003: 17).

There are no easy answers to the problem of declining youth voting rates though there have been a rash of papers and books over the last few years looking at the problem. O'Neill's paper, which is a decent survey of the literature in this area, outlines some possibilities for further study but also presents some reasonable policy considerations worthy of further study. That said: I must take issue with this policy consideration:

Fourth, governments ought to focus the lens inward to consider how institutions and processesmay no longer “speak” to the youngest citizens and how they may even discourage theirparticipation. For the cognitively mobilized, the formal processes and hierarchical organizationsof representative politics provide little in the way of satisfying and results-oriented practices.Wherever possible, participatory decision-making structures ought to be adopted, fully supportedand implemented. This necessarily involves the ceding of a measure of political power butbrings with it a host of benefits in the form of an engaged, informed and involved citizenry.

If we start “ceding a measure of political power” to groups that have lower voter turnout, then what motivation is there for any group to show up and vote? Political power, by definition ought to accrue to those groups that can demonstrate their political sophistication by actually voting. To paraphrase, George Jean Nathan, “bad governments are elected by good citizens who don't vote.” Message to young people and others who are “cognitively mobilized”: There is no substitute for voting.



The lightly examined history of the Supreme Court of Canada

Back in 1985, I'm sure I was taking this or that undergraduate course with either or both of professors Jamie Snell and Fred Vaughan at my alma mater, the University of Guelph. While I was preparing papers or cramming for exams, they were researching and writing The Supreme Court: History of the Institution. Though it was 1985 and the country was more than 120 years old, this would be the first-ever history of the country's highest court.

Given the relatively lengthy life of the Supreme Court of Canada and given the emphasis of Canadian historians on political history and constitutional development, it is surprising that no basic history of the Court has been written. This volume is an attempt to fill that gap.

Snell, a historian, and Vaughan, a political scientist, recognize that the first attempt at a history of the court ought to be a “just the facts, ma'am” type of affair. And yet:

Some basic themes emerge throughout the study. A judicial conservatism has long dominated the Supreme Court ofCanada. Judicial conservatism is defined here as ‘a tendency literally to conserve or maintain existing law by shictly, even mechanistically, applying established rules and precedents. The conservative judge is unwilling to modify rules and thus little interested in policy arguments about the effect of his decision or the social function of a rule.’ Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada actively and knowingly adopted shict conshuction because they believed ‘in the principle that changing the law is the province of the legislature, not the judge,‘a sentiment in keeping with Canadian judicial and political culture.‘

If, by chance, you're reading Philip Slayton's entertaining Mighty Judgement: How the Supreme Court of Canada Runs Your LIfe, I strongly recommend the study by Snell and Vaughan as an excellent primer that will make Slayton's study even more interesting.