Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Liberal Party: making up donation figures

... Because, why bother with your real fundraising numbers when you could just make up a number?

The Liberal Party has an opportunity to "win" dinner with Justin Trudeau, because apparently having dinner with Justin Trudeau is something worth winning for as little as $5.  (Maybe over dinner he can regale you with his economic plan, his jobs plan, his tax plan, and his environmental plan. Please, let us know when you find out because we're all waiting too.)

A friend pointed out that the script behind the fundraising counter in the top left corner (it was at $181,501 at the time I started writing this) is simply set to auto-update approximately $9 every six seconds.

So it's not that the Liberal Party actually raised $300 in the time it took me to write this, but they sure can dream.

Ontario’s universities and student unions among the worst for free speech

For the Prince Arthur Herald and Huffington Post Canada

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom’s 2013 Campus Freedom Index highlights a disturbing trend that has been observed for many years: Canada’s universities and student unions are abysmally poor at promoting free speech and expression on campus.

The index looks at the policies and practices of universities and student unions across Canada to determine their affinity for free speech, which, unfortunately, continues to be incredibly low.  The grading criteria are straightforward:

University policies:
  •       Is there a clear and unequivocal commitment to free speech?
  •       Is the university’s anti-discrimination policy used to censor unpopular, controversial, or politically incorrect speech?
  • Are security fees used as an indirect method to stifle free speech?
  • Does the anti-distruption policy make it clear that the university will not condone students blocking, obstructing, suppressing, or interrupting other students sharing ideas with which they disagree?

For an ‘A’ grade, the university must demonstrate that its practices are to unequivocally:
  • Permit the expression of unpopular speech on campus
  • Reject demands to cancel events or otherwise suppress speech
  • Provide adequate security to ensure that people do not engage in blocking, obstructing, suppressing, or interrupting other students sharing ideas with which they disagree
  • Speak out in cases where the campus’ student union has restricted free speech or discriminated against campus clubs on the basis of their opinions

Student union policies:
  • Is there a stated commitment to free speech on campus?
  • Do written policies expressly protect diversity of opinion and prevent the student union executive from discriminating against a club on the basis of its beliefs, opinions, or philosophy?
  • Do student elections rules state elections officers cannot censor speech during elections or referenda?
  • Do policies restrict the student union’s advocacy on issues related to post-secondary education, without adopting or promoting formal positions in respect of provincial, federal, or international issues?

For an ‘A’ grade, the student union must demonstrate that its practices are to unequivocally:
  • Support freedom of expression for unpopular opinions and beliefs by rejecting demands to cancel events and by speaking out against university actions that suppress free speech
  • Not discriminate against a campus club’s certification, funding, or allocation of resources based on that club’s beliefs, opinions, or philosophy.

Following standard letter grades, the 2013 index awarded a total of six As, 19 Bs, 80Cs, 43 Ds, and 32 Fs among Canada’s 45 public universities.  No university received an ‘A’ for both their university’s administration and student union.

Of Ontario’s 23 universities, the best was Ryerson University in Toronto, ranked as one of Canada’s top universities with a ‘B’ average for its university and a ‘D’ and an ‘F’ for its student union.  Carleton University and uOttawa, both in Ottawa, were not only the worst universities in Ontario, but across Canada.  That’s unacceptable for the universities here in our Nation’s Capital.

The state of Ontario’s universities

Both Carleton and uOttawa earned a ‘D’ for their free speech policies.  Carleton University bans “name-calling” and “derogatory remarks” and classifies both as discrimination and harassment.  Carleton University also earned an ‘F’ for denying equal access to resources and facilities to campus clubs who have a controversial political philosophy: in 2010 they had four students from the pro-life campus club Carleton Lifeline arrested for trespassing when they set up a graphic display in a public place.

To its credit, both Carleton University and the student union defended free speech when it allowed a free speech wall on campus.  However, the wall was quickly torn down by 7th year undergraduate student Arun Smith, who proudly bragged on social media about his deed and taunted the university administration to do something about it.  Smith said “not every opinion is valid,” even though the wall had a variety of opinions, none of which stood out as being overly offensive or warranting Smith’s personal decision to silence free speech.  The university confirmed it had “sanctioned” Smith, but would not say what those sanctions are.

Meanwhile, the University of Ottawa gives itself the sole authority in determining security fees, and charges these costs to the event host.  It is no surprise that many campus clubs and organizations, with small budgets and limited fundraising ability, cannot afford outrageous security fees, with thus become an indirect way of controlling and limiting free speech.  Large crowds of fans and detractors gathered when Ezra Levant and the International Free Press Society organized for Ann Coulter to give a speech on campus, to the point where campus security and Ottawa Police said they could not guarantee her safety.  This also came after Police became aware of people organizing through Facebook to bring weapons in order to assault Coulter.  The university also sent a letter to Coulter warning her to “watch her words.”

In 2009 uOttawa also banned posters promoting the Israeli Apartheid Week, citing a lack of the ability “for all members of the community [to] play a part in a declaration of human rights.”  This follows a similar trend where the university’s “Protection Services” must approve all materials before they can be distributed on campus.

On the bright side, Ontario’s best university earned an ‘A’ for its refusal to ban lawyer and Black Panther Party Leader Malik Zulu Shabazz from campus.

Taken together, Ontario’s university administrations are in a sad state of affairs when they cannot guarantee that individuals patronizing their universities can be guaranteed the right to free expression.  What happened to university being the place where challenging, provocative ideas were encouraged?

The state of Ontario’s student unions

Student unions, the supposed representatives for students on campus, have not been any better in promoting free speech. Ryerson University, Queen’s University’s Alma Mater Society, and the York Federation of Students are all failing student unions that received poor grades for limiting free speech.

Ryerson’s Student Union refused to certify a men’s issues group because they affiliated with A Voice for Men and the Canadian Association for Equality, which the student union deemed “hate groups.”  York’s student union, also in Toronto, received an ‘F’ for cancelling an abortion debate just hours before it was set to begin, stating “abortion is not an issue to debate.”

York University’s student union gives enormous influence to its chief elections official during election season: the Chief Returning Officer has unlimited authority to limit a candidates’ speaking engagements, locations of campaigning, number of pamphlets and posters he or she can hand out, and can self-define the necessity to limit free speech on the grounds of “offence,” “hurt,” or being “out of bounds.”

Carleton University’s student association (CUSA) refused to recognize the campus organization Carleton Lifeline, citing the campus discrimination policy, and thus barring Lifeline from access to campus resources or funding like official campus organizations.  CUSA has also used this policy to ban “hateful” groups like the American think tank The Heritage Foundation.

(CUSA also disqualified their President-elect in 2010, after he was elected, on unconfirmed accusations by a single person.)

But there is some light at the end of this report, particularly as it applies to Carleton’s student union.  In December 2012, the union council introduced a motion to amend the discrimination policy, specifically removing a list of banned organizations and allowing for a looser definition of groups whose “clear mandate and purpose is to perpetuate hate or discrimination” rather than any group that could hurt someone’s feelings or present thought-provoking ideas.  In fact, the council’s preamble cited the 2012 Campus Freedom Index as the reason necessitating the change.  By January 2013, Lifeline was ratified as a campus club.

CUSA’s progression from one of the worst student unions in Canada to one of the best is to be commended.  To be clear, there is much work to be done, with a ‘C’ and an ‘A’ still being far from acceptable grades, but their progress is promising.

In 2008, CUSA gained international infamy when its council decided to stop fundraising for cystic fibrosis on the grounds it only affected white males.  Luckily, it seems most of the bigots, fanatics, and outrageous optimists have moved on from Carleton’s campus politics, leaving some of the more rational and level-headed students to make decisions.

Their progression in a few short years is commendable, and more universities and student unions should strive to do so well so quickly.  But what this report highlights is that Ontario’s universities and student unions are still very, very poor at ensuring even the most basic of human rights: free expression.

To view the full report, visit

2013 Campus Freedom Index at a Glance

Best Universities in Canada:
Acadia University - B
Memorial University of Newfoundland - B
Ryerson University - B
Simon Fraser University - B
University of British Columbia - B
University of Regina - B

Worst Universities in Canada:
Carleton University - F
University of Ottawa - F
McGill University – D*
York University – D*

* Tied for second-worst

Best Student Unions in Canada:
Carleton University Students’ Association - B
University of King’s College Students’ Union – B

Worst Student Unions in Canada:
Lakehead University Students’ Union - F
University of Victoria’s Society - F
York Federation of Students – F
Brandon University Students’ Union*
Students Society of McGill University*
Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union*
Queen’s University’s Alma Mater Society*
Ryerson Students’ Union*
University of Calgary Students’ Union*
University of Manitoba Students’ Union*

* Tied for second-worst

Best provinces for free speech:
New Brunswick

Worst provinces for free speech:
Prince Edward Island

Percentage of failures by province:
British Columbia: 33%
Alberta: 100%
Saskatchewan: 0%
Manitoba: 67%
Ontario: 73%
Quebec: 20%
Newfoundland: 100%
Prince Edward Island: 100%
New Brunswick: 0%

Nova Scotia: 43%

Monday, September 23, 2013

Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Army Run

Here's Justin Trudeau taking part in the 2013 Canadian Army Run in Ottawa, Ontario with former Army Commander Andrew Leslie:

What a great guy eh? Clearly supports our military, supports veterans, and is willing to put some sweat equity into showing he cares about them!

Not so fast.

They were running the 5km course, as Trudeau acknowledges here:

You can clearly see Trudeau's bib number is 20603 and Leslie's is 18042.  The official results are posted at Here's Leslie:

But... well isn't that strange? There seems to be absolutely no record of a Justin Trudeau ever completing the Canadian Army Run, nor is there any record of bib 20603.

What's going on here? Did Trudeau mysteriously not finish the race?  Or was this just a cheap photo op, where he took a staffer's bib, threw it on for a photo or two, then left?  Some supporter of Canada's military.

H/T BC Blue

Update September 25, 2013: apparently even making this suggestion makes me a conspiracy theorist!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Toronto Star, Globe and Mail called before Ontario Press Council

Did you know the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail were called before the Ontario Press Council to defend themselves on multiple complaints regarding their "Rob Ford crack video" stories?

Me neither.  Strange how the news didn't cover... the news.

The hearings took place at Ryerson University on September 9, 2013 and questioned whether the newspapers engaged in "irresponsible, unethical investigative reporting."  The two complaints were deemed a representative sample of 41 complaints received by the Press Council over two articles published by the Star and Globe and Mail.

Here's the live blog of the arguments made during that day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shocking Saint Mary's University Chant

Published for the Prince Arthur Herald

Like many others, I was shocked when the Saint Mary University’s now-infamous frosh chant was released and quickly went viral.  That video can be seen here, and although I will not repeat what was willingly (and happily) chanted by both young men and women, I will summarize that the chant received the attention it did because it encourages raping underage women.  (View the video at your own risk.)

But as shocking as the chant itself was, that was not what shocked me.  What shocked me was professionals, adults, students, and parents – many of whom have been to university and college campuses and received a university or college education – expressing shock!

It was as if never before had any political commentator, any journalist, any parent, or any number of the people subsequently interviewed to express their well-found outrage had ever been to a university or college campus before.

As much as I would like to expect my fellow student peers to act like adults, I have no unreasonable expectations about their lack of ability to always behave as such.  I also have no unreasonable expectations or beliefs about what university is.  Most students behave appropriately, but some do not.

Thousands of new students flock to university and college campuses each year.  Many have just graduated high school, saved a bit of money (or borrowed a sustenance’s sum from their parents), and jumped in their parents’ car to move into their new residence or apartment.  For many students this is their first time away from home, if not ever, then at least for such a long period of time.

Frosh week was once about bringing these new students together.  It was once an ice-breaking opportunity for students to tour the campus, meet their professors and teaching assistants, learn the university’s academic policies and expectations, and socialize with their new classmates and roommates.

Back then the introduction to a post-secondary education was first and socializing was second.  Perhaps the students’ parents would stay for the first few days to help unpack or buy furniture for that new apartment.  It used to be about making the violent shove into adulthood a little less violent.

Nowadays this shove is just as violent, and students increasingly turn to alcohol and drug use and destructive social relationships to cope.

Somewhere the priority list was reversed, and frosh week became about destructive forms of socializing first and learning students’ rights and responsibilities second.

Is it any surprise that frosh weeks at campuses across Canada have become “alcohol-fuelled”, sexualized, violent, and uncontrollable?  Is it any surprise that ridiculous chants, outrageous student council decisions, and large student-led riots increasingly make the evening news?

The Saint Mary’s student association’s president acknowledged the chant highlighted “a culture of sexism” on campus.  Yet as the leader of these students, and some would say as a senior elected guardian of sorts, he allowed the chant to go on.  Ditto for the Vice President of Student Life – a female – who was directly responsible for the organizing and coordination of the frosh week activities.

Both have resigned, purportedly realizing their mistakes, yet the President has already announced his intent to seek election as the President again next year.

His instant resignation followed by his announcement to again run for President is telling in itself.  It speaks volumes about a President, supposedly a student leader, who resigns from his role when the job is tough, but wants to seek election again a few months down the road - when the media go away.

For its part, the university is calling in a “bullying expert” to attempt to quell the outrage.  What these students need is not lectures on why bullying is wrong, but a basic understanding of self-decency and self-worth.  Groupthink is a dangerous drug; every female seen engaging in the chant is proudly doing so.  Not one person – male or female – can be seen taking a stand against the chant.  All are gleefully signing along.  I wonder, if asked, if each student would repeat their President’s pathetic attempt at rationalization: “well, we’ve been doing it since 2009…”

Parents and professors alike are also calling for adult intervention and increased supervision against – ahem, adults.  Parents don’t seem to understand it was their job to prepare their young sons and daughters for life as a post-secondary student.  The parents are attempting to shift the blame away from themselves for failing to raise young adults who understand it’s not okay to say what was said; who know how to behave in public; and who know how to be model citizens.  Increased adult supervision doesn’t often come on university campuses – and when it does, it is usually in the form of a student getting a 0 mark or the police being called.

The Saint Mary’s chant was despicable and offensive.  But what was really surprising was the public’s collective outrage and surprise that these sorts of chants happen on university campuses in the first place.

Update: a similar chant at the University of British Columbia has been "discovered" and a petition for action against that university's student leadership has been launched.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mulcair needs to make up his mind on marijuana

Published in the Hill Times

A flip, a flop, a flip, and then another flop!

The NDP and leader Thomas Mulcair need to make up their mind when it comes to their policy on marijuana use.

First, a reminder on definitions:
To decriminalize is to take away the criminal offence element of marijuana use and possession. So instead of going to jail and being criminally charged, an offender would get a fine and maybe have their drugs seized.

To legalize is to make marijuana use legal.  It is a step beyond decriminalization, since not only is it no longer a criminal offence, but its use actually becomes regulated and controlled by the government.

Mulcair is surely aware of the differences between these definitions.

August 2013: Mulcair pledges to legalize marijuana:

April 2013: grassroots NDP members vote in favour of decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

April 2012: Mulcair (now elected NDP leader) rules out even the decriminalization of marijuana, saying that would be a mistake since "what's on the street is incredibly potent."

March 2012: Mulcair (the leadership candidate) supports the decriminalization of marijuana

(For what it's worth, the NDP's 2011 campaign platform doesn't mention marijuana, but Jack Layton was in favour of decriminalizing it.)

Please, Mr. Mulcair, stop reacting to what Justin Trudeau says and make up your mind of on which side of the issue you stand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Justin Trudeau's Liberal Brand

Published for The Prince Arthur Herald

One of the first orders of business for new political party leaders is the branding of their party.  What will their party stand for? What will they do if elected?  How will their policies help Canadian families?

A large portion of this branding is already done during the leadership race, but it is still a sizeable project once the leader has been elected and receives the full picture on where their party is and where they want to be before the next election.

The NDP branded former leader Jack Layton as your down to earth, hard working average Canadian: one who you could easily sit down with for a chat over a beer.  Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s brand has been jobs, accountability, and the economy.  His record has created over one million net new jobs since 2009, and it is an impressive record in an era of record deficits and ballooning government debt throughout the world.  Former Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s brand was environmentalism, which (he hoped) would invigorate Canadians’ concerns about the environment.

We know how successful each of these brands were, or continue to be: successful, successful, and unimaginable failure.

The Liberals and the media together have been closely watching Justin Trudeau since he became leader.  They want to see what Trudeau’s brand will be.

That’s why it is interesting to see how closely Trudeau has aligned himself with illegal activity, questionable individuals, and morally-absent behaviour which is questionable for most Canadians.

Former Liberal cabinet minister and current Mayor of London, Ontario Joe Fontana has been criminally charged with using public money to pay for his son’s wedding.  This is the same person who took $41,000 from a charity he directs while holding office – a charity which has since had its charitable status pulled by the Canada Revenue Agency.  But that was just business as usual for a Martin-era cabinet minister, where playing fast and loose with public money was standard.

Trudeau should have been one of the first people to publicly condemn the disgraced politician. He should have said Fontana in no way represents the Liberal values and the Liberal brand Trudeau would build and sustain under his leadership.  He should have kicked Fontana from the Liberal Party and sent a clear message that Trudeau’s Liberals would not stand for the same corruption and nepotism seen under Chretien’s and Martin’s leadership.

But instead, Trudeau has remained silent, a trend for which he is increasingly becoming known: silent on policy, silent on the economy, silent on substance, silent on troubles in the Middle East.

In fact, the only record I can find of Trudeau saying anything related to Fontana is that they both support each other’s marijuana use.

Trudeau came out in early August to admit he smoked marijuana.  Regardless of your stance on whether it should be illegal (or to what degree), the fact remains that current Canadian law says its use is against the law.

Trudeau could hardly expect a court of law to accept the argument “this law is unfair” as grounds for breaking that law.  Could he?

But there was Fontana, like his boss, trying to lighten the mood by joking about their past and recent histories.

That Trudeau has remained silent on Fontana yet overly vocal about using marijuana is troubling.  Trudeau has set the stage for his priorities to read marijuana legalization first, government corruption second.  Where, Mr. Trudeau, is anything resembling an economic policy?

Or your policy on the ongoing Senate expense scandal?

Trudeau announced his Senators would post all expense statements online so they are publicly available.  An excellent policy for transparency and accountability – except that these statements are already publicly available for all Senators right here.

Liberal Senator Mac Harb has been the only Senator to resign to-date due to this ongoing scandal, paying back over $231,000 in an attempt to be cast in the best possible light while the RCMP continue their investigation.

But once again Trudeau has remained silent.  Trudeau had an opportunity to define his party as one for law and order, one that could be trusted with the public’s money – yet Trudeau was silent.  The last we heard from Trudeau, back in June, was that he would be happy to welcome Harb back into caucus.

Perhaps Trudeau’s communications team was on “vacation” after blatantly claiming religious people are “less intelligent” than atheists.

But his communications team was back in the office in time for their leader to say convicted murderer and terrorist Omar Khadr may be entitled to financial compensation.  Not once did Trudeau bring up how much money Khadr’s victim’s family should be entitled to.  Trudeau’s focus was solely on making sure a convicted war criminal gets some money for his troubles.

Not only is the Trudeau Liberal brand troubling for Canadians, but it’s equally unsettling that there are advisors in Trudeau’s office telling him to say these things.  Trudeau has been entirely empty on policies and platforms and ideas – but he has been quick to jump on the bandwagon of disgraced cabinet ministers, misuse of public money, and drug use.

Will this branding work come the 2015 election?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Social Media for Dummies

What a shameful weekend for some of Canada's highest-ranking and well-known left-wingers. Some basic social media training might do them well.

1. Liberal Party of Alberta President Wendy Butler asks Alberta MP Mike Lake what he's doing for the constituents who don't have autism.

2. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi accuses Ezra Levant of beating his wife.