Harper's new national security advisor on the threat of terrorism

Richard Fadden

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Richard Fadden as his new National Security Advisor, a job which, you might have guessed, is both important and influential in that you end up talking to the prime minister of a G8 country likely every day, if not more often, about, well, national security.

On Wednesday, of course, terrorists killed 12 journalists and policemen in Paris.

Later this year, we will have an election where national security and our collective response to the world’s terrorists may be an issue. I try to connect all three of those dots in a column offered up for publication in our newspapers tomorrow. [You can read it now here].
That column draws heavily on a speech Fadden — whose bio is worth reviewing — gave in 2009 just after he was appointed head of CSIS. Newspaper will only give me 625 words worth of space so I was only able to impart a small bit of what Fadden said back then. I encourage you to read all of what he said in 2009 and can report that, in my discussions with current and former Harper insiders, Fadden’s 2009 thinking would be very much in keeping with the prime minister’s thinking right now in 2015.

I’m told, though I am unlikely to be able to confirm this with Fadden himself, that he pretty much wrote this himself and rather than offer it to PCO higher-ups where the “good bits” would likely be gutted, he just went and gave the speech. The source for these remarks is here [PDF]: Continue reading Harper's new national security advisor on the threat of terrorism

Who has the most ministers? Harper or Mulroney?

With the elevation Monday of MP Erin O’Toole into Stephen Harper’s cabinet, where O’Toole will serve as the minister for veterans affairs, the size of Harper’s current ministry is now at 40 members. A “ministry” is made up of all of those MPs who are, to use the Parliamentary language, styled as Ministers or as Ministers of State. Each of these individuals gets a significant salary boost, a car, a driver, and some extra political staff.

A ministry of 40 is pretty big. Some would say you could cut the size in half and no one would notice. Some complain about such a bloated cabinet. In fact, for a time yesterday, I thought that Harper — the leader of what some have been sold as the “Small-government Government” — had actually set the all-time record for the size of a ministry.

Why did I (and some others) come to that conclusion? Well, we did what we usually do when we need some numbers for historical perspective looked it up at the Parliamentary Web Site — parl.gc.ca — where you can find a page that lists “Size of Ministries”, a page compiled by the smart folks at the Library of Parliament, that goes all the way back to Macdonald.

If you look at that page, you’ll see that both Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin had ministries of 39 individuals. With Harper hitting 40 ministers, it was easy enough to say Harper was now the proud owner of the biggest minister of all time.

Not so fast, a friend e-mailed me.  Continue reading Who has the most ministers? Harper or Mulroney?

Dalhousie prof: Kenney's ideological rhetoric on failed refugees obscures truth

Carrie Dawson, DalhousieCarrie Dawson, (left)an English professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, was watching and reading how Jason Kenney talked about the problem of failed refugee claimants who land on our shores while he was minister of citizenship and immigration. She has a few issues with the language Kenney and other Conservative government ministers used over the last several years on this topic. Dawson has a piece in the current issue of the University of Toronto Quarterly with the title “Refugee Hotels: The Discourse of Hospitality and the Rise of Immigration Detention in Canada.” I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by cutting straight to her conclusion:

Continue reading Dalhousie prof: Kenney's ideological rhetoric on failed refugees obscures truth

Pop Star to Liberals: Do as I say (please) not as I do

Juno Award-winner Chantal Kreviazuk prior to her May 23, 2013 appearance at Lindsay’s Academy Theatre. (LISA GERVAIS/The Lindsay Post)

All federal parties are in a mad push these final few days of the year to boost their fundraising numbers before the quarter ends. So far, the only pitch I’ve seen to use a “celebrity” came, today, from the Liberals, over the signature of  “Chantal Kreviazuk, Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter” (whose music I quite admire, I must say). Kreviazuk says she supports Trudeau and while she does not say “join me in making a donation”, you will see (below) that there is a pitch from the party for cash is between her endorsement and her signature. Thing is, I can find no record in Elections Canada’s database of any donation by any Kreviazuk in Canada to any Liberal anywhere. More here .. Continue reading Pop Star to Liberals: Do as I say (please) not as I do

Liberals race to match Conservatives on fundraising with hours to go


Christmas is over and there’s just four days (and counting) till the fiscal quarter closes for every political party at midnight eastern on Dec. 31. And that means those, like me, who are on e-mail fundraising lists for our major political parties can expect a steady stream of pitches for the next 96 hours. Let’s start with the one, above, from Liberal Party HQ, issued in the name of Christina Topp, the party’s senior director of fundraising. She says the party has already raised $4 million this quarter but she wants at least $1.4 million in the next four days to match what the Liberals estimate the Conseratives will take in. Mark Jarvis, on Twitter notes: Continue reading Liberals race to match Conservatives on fundraising with hours to go

Environmental History: Finally, we catch the Swedes …

ON FROBISHER BAY NEAR IQALUIT, NUNAVUT — It’s been too long since I was north of 60 but here’s the last time: February, 2012 while covering one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Iqaluit. We were snowmobiled out onto Frobisher Bay (that’s Iqaluit in the background) to witness a PM photo opp. This was, arguably, the coldest I’ve ever been.

The latest issue of The Canadian Historical Review has as its theme: Environmental History. The issue, and this essay by Swedish environmental historian Sverker Sörlin, look to be an interesting read: Continue reading Environmental History: Finally, we catch the Swedes …

Spirit of Radio: Ad wars pitch Conservatives versus Liberals


Across the country this holiday season, voters who listen to radio will be hearing pitches from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.


The Liberals have announced that they have two different radio ads ready to go. You can listen to them on their Web site but, so far at least, I have no reports that anyone has actually heard them in the wild. Continue reading Spirit of Radio: Ad wars pitch Conservatives versus Liberals

Justin Trudeau's partisan brain trust on foreign affairs

 Za'atri Refugee Camp in Jordan
Your correspondent meets Syrian child refugees at Za’atri Refugee Camp in Jordan while covering Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit there earlier this year. Harper’s approach to the Middle East — aligning Canada much more strongly with Israel than previous Liberal prime ministers, for example — would be one of the defining characteristics of his foreign policy. Liberals recently opposed the combat mission against ISIL in Iraq.  (Look closely to find PostMedia’s Mark Kennedy among the kids there).

Today, the Liberal Party of Canada has announced a council  of “non-partisan” experts to provide advice and be a sounding board for leader Justin Trudeau on international affairs issues, from military procurement to international aid to global security threats.  The professional qualifications and accomplishments of the members of this council are impressive but it cannot be accurate to brand this group as “non-partisan”.

Indeed,  this council is made up of 14 individuals, 11 of whom are Liberals MPs, current or former Liberal candidates, or Liberal donors.  No one should be confused: This council does not believe that the way Stephen Harper has positioned Canada on the world stage is a good thing. And eight of them – the current or hope-to-be Liberal MPs — would have voted with their leader against the current combat mission against ISIL in Iraq. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s avoid the marketing sheen of “non-partisan.” Continue reading Justin Trudeau's partisan brain trust on foreign affairs

How to give away $68 billion: Ottawa cuts cheques to the provinces

Today, the federal government announced how much each province and territory will get in transfer payments next year. All told, Ottawa will transfer $68 billion to provincial capitals in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2016. As federal finance minister Joe Oliver said, for every dollar that Ottawa takes in, it sends 20 cents back out to the provinces and territories.

Drawing data from this table at the Department of Finance, we can break a few things down: Continue reading How to give away $68 billion: Ottawa cuts cheques to the provinces

I am a traitorous self-hating Ghomeshi-like fiend for shopping in New York!


Earlier this week, Industry Minister James Moore announced new measures the government hopes will eliminate the cross-border price differential. I believe this initiative will do little to to close that gap and that if it was useful at all, it was useful politically to the Conservatives who hope to be seen by voters as more consumer-friendly than the alternative. I tried to connect the politics of Moore’s announcement with my recent purchase of a snow blower, a purchase I made in the United States after discovering a significant cross-border price difference, in a column published in most of our newspapers Wednesday.

For my troubles — trying to explain Conservative consumer-first politics and my snowblower purhase — readers of our newspapers are accusing me of terrible things.  For example, Barry R. from Kingston, Ont. says: Continue reading I am a traitorous self-hating Ghomeshi-like fiend for shopping in New York!