Thursday, July 30, 2009

Comrade Miller strikes

After six weeks of mounting garbage, union-boss bullying and cancelled events, Toronto Mayor David Miller caved in and gave striking city workers just about everything they wanted.

And make no mistake, Commissar Miller folded like a cheap tent. The union wanted a pay raise; they got it. The union wanted to keep a benefit plan which awarded workers 18 sick days a year (they could also accumulate these “sick days” for a payout when they retire) he let them keep it, though it will be gradually phased out.

It seems there is no recession in Toronto Public Workers Land.

Mind you, no one should be surprised by Miller’s surrender. After all, he has always cared more about appeasing unions than representing the interests of Toronto taxpayers. It’s like Howard Levitt wrote in the National Post, “expecting Mayor David Miller to deal effectively with the unions was always the equivalent of expecting a fox to responsibly administer a henhouse.”

A union victory, in other words, was preordained. That's why it actually would have better had Miller sold out taxpayers at the beginning of the bargaining process as this would have at least spared the city the anguish and inconvenience of the strike.

And of course, it’s taxpayers who will end up paying for this sweet deal. So hang onto your wallets Torontonians, Miller’s socialist revolution is only getting started.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Motorhome Diaries speak out

A couple of postings ago, I noted that American libertarians Jason Talley and Pete Eyre of Motorhome Diaries were not permitted into Canada to speak at the Liberty Summer Seminar.

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, however, they were able to make a broadcast to the Seminar.

Here's the video.

Media Alert

I am scheduled to be a guest on Michael Harris Live (CFRA Ottawa) this afternoon at approximately 2:45 PM to talk about the Liberty Summer Seminar.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A song for freedom

Shakedown, Ezra Levant's impassioned take on how Human Rights Commissions are underming our individual rights, has inspired lots of people.

And one such person is a young performer named Lindy Vopnfjord who wrote a song to honour Ezra and his battle.

Here is Lindy singing it at the recent Liberty Summer Seminar.

Free Advice for the Tories

Kory Teneycke stepped down as Director of Communications for Prime Minister Harper today.

So over at the Women's Post, I posted some free advice for his replacement.

Needless to say, I don't think I'm in the running for the job.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Can libertarians and liberals get along?

One of the speakers at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar was the Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson, who made an intriguing argument.

Libertarians he said should seek to align themselves with left-wing-liberals.

He says such an alliance would create a new political force he calls "liberaltarianism” or “progressive fusionism."

On the surface that sounds pretty strange, but in some ways his vision makes sense.

Certainly, for instance, on some social issues and foreign policy matters, liberals and libertarians do share common philosophic ground.

Plus once upon a time, back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, libertarians were liberals, so there is also a common historic bond.

And finally, so-called conservatives in both the Republican and Conservative Parties have not shown themselves to be all that reliable as friends to those of us who cherish smaller government and free enterprise.

In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper essentially turfed libertarians from his party.

So in a sense libertarians in both Canada and the United States are political refugees looking for a new home. So why not try and hook up with liberals?

But can pro-big government liberals and anti-government libertarians really get along?

Yes, says Wilkinson.

But both sides would need to compromise.

Libertarians, he says, would have to accept the value of and need for the welfare state while liberals would need to concede that only unfettered free markets can produce the wealth necessary to fund things like the welfare state.

Like I said, it's an intriguing idea, but let's face it "progressive fusionism" has about as much chance as happening as Rush Limbaugh has of being named's "Man of the Year".

Besides the fact that liberals just don't like capitalism, there are other cultural issues which divide the two groups such as gun rights.

Yet, I don't want to be too dismissive of Wilkinson's plan.

For instance, I fully support the idea of libertarians infiltrating the Liberal Party to push it in the right direction. (The best way to convince the Liberals to adopt a pro-freedom agenda, is to suggest it will help them win an election.)

At the same time, libertarians should not give up on the Tories, the more natural allies of freedom.

Indeed, in the best of all worlds, libertarian philosophy would be an influence in both parties, and we would see the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition battling each other as to who would cut taxes the most.

Hey, it could happen.

Stopping freedom at the border

One interesting sidebar to the Liberty Summer Seminar this year was that a couple of scheduled speakers were denied entry at the Canadian/American border.

That would be Jason Talley and Pete Eyre of Motorhome Diaries.

What's Motorhome Diaries?

Well Talley and Eyre -- a couple of hard core libertarians -- are travelling across America in an RV "searching for freedom" and videotaping as they go.

They were supposed to make an appearance at the LSS, but alas overzealous Canadian border guards stopped their RV, searched their vehicle for "heinous propaganda" and ultimately told them to head back south.

Kady O'Malley has the whole story.

It's pretty sad when people talking about "freedom" aren't allowed in the country.

Liberty in the summer

Had a great time at the Liberty Summer Seminar.

Yes enough rain fell during the weekend to encourage talk of building an ark, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

The best thing about the seminar, besides the great speakers and the wonderul meals is the people you get to meet.

I had chance to meet bloggers Dr. Roy and Hugh MacIntyre and Conservative MP Scott Reid and Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, plus a bunch of other great folks.

I am already looking forward to next year's event.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bloc-ing the Liberals

CFRB talk show host John Moore has an interesting column in the National Post today suggesting the Conservative Party is essentially implementing a "scorched earth" policy in Quebec.

That is the Tories, who are done like in dinner in Quebec, are deliberating making moves designed to drive voters into the Bloc Quebecois camp, as this will block any Liberal resurgence in the province.

If that's indeed what the Conservatives are doing, than it's a good strategy, a strategy which would ensure the Conservatives maintain a minority government.

In fact, I suggested they do something similar nearly four years ago.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cat Attack

Rondi Adamson has an idea for an attack ad which is sure to scratch and claw away at the credibility of Liberal leader Michael "The Russian" Ignatieff.

Roughing it for freedom

Here's my latest column in the Sun Media chain.

It's about how I found freedom in the wilderness, or at least what I consider to be wilderness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fiscal conservatives MIA

Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a great column in the National Post today, asking the key question: Where did all the fiscal conservatives go?

I am not sure where they are, but I sure hope they return soon.

Canada needs them!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Posting at the Post

FYI -- The National Post will now be posting stuff from my blog over at its online Full Comment section.

The final frontier

As we all know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most incredible achievements in human history.

But I don't want to write about the '69 New York Mets winning the World Series.

I want to talk about outer space.

After all, it was on this date 40 years ago that Neil Armstrong found a giant monolith on the moon, which caused his computer to go crazy and a giant baby to float in space.

Wait, that was 2001 Space Odyssey.

Which leads me to another question: Why is it in the year 2009 - a full eight years after 2001 -- we don't have lunar colonies or massive hotel-like space stations that emit Beethoven symphonies?

Instead all we have is the Space Shuttle, basically a glorified space taxi, except real taxis probably have a better safety record.

What's wrong? Why are we not going bolder where no man has gone before?

Maybe the problem is that our space efforts are a government operation.

In my younger more naive days, I belonged to a group called the L5 Society, which pushed the idea of private sector space colonization.

But I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

That's why these days I am much less of a space enthusiast. Seems to me the idea of travelling to other planets is nothing but a pipe dream, that's not really worth the expense of tax dollars.

On the bright side, I understand aliens with futuristic space technology have landed which may enable us to travel faster than the speed of light.

Wait, that was the plot of Star Trek: First Contact.

Liberty in the summer

Just a reminder: The Liberty Summer Seminar is almost here!

Go here to register.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is big government progressive?

A couple of days ago the Toronto Star ran a column by Professor Arthur Haberman who was lamenting the decline of "progressive" conservatism.

I responded with a letter to the editor, which the Star published today:

In his opinion piece, Arthur Haberman suggested bigger and more costly government is "progressive."

But if by "progressive" he means moving the country forward or bettering the condition of Canadians, he's wrong.

Big government, after all, means high taxes, burdensome regulations and bureaucrats meddling in the private sector, all of which hamper productivity, retard economic growth and undermine our standard of living.

True progress only comes when government is small and when it respects the freedom of entrepreneurs to innovate and create wealth.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Politics of Civility

Recently, Professor Geoffrey Stevens wrote a column in the Guelph Mercury which went after Prime Minister Harper for his lack of "civility".

I responded with a letter to the editor, which the Mercury has yet to publish.

So I will reprint it here:

In the column “What we know about Harper isn’t nice,” July 13, Geoffrey Stevens complains the “loss of civility in the politics of the Harper era is startling.”

And one of the things which startles Stevens is the Conservative Party’s use of “attack ads.”

Yet the Conservatives are not the first party to use such ads to score points against political opponents.

The Liberal Party of Canada, for instance, ran vicious attack ads in the 2004 federal election designed to make Conservative leader Stephen Harper look like a war-mongering, woman-hating, gun-loving, clone of Satan.

I wonder if Stevens condemned those ads as uncivil, or is it only when Liberals are attacked that he takes offence?

The fact is, uncivil or not, attack ads work.

That's why both the Liberal and Conservatives have used them in the past; it's why they will both use them in the future.

Dissecting a political video

Some guy (gal?) who calls himself (herself) "Tory Boy" has produced a little video to defend the Conservative government.

It's a nice little try, but as a political ad it has a few problems.

First, the ad leads off telling us how the Conservative government's "economic action plan" is "protecting jobs."

Let's just ignore the ideological issue as to how someone who calls himself/herself a Conservative could possibly think massive deficits somehow protects jobs.

The more practical problem is the ad is supposed to be an attack on the Liberals; more specifically it's supposed to be an attack on how the Liberal "war room" manufactures issues.

So if you are going to attack, just keep the ad an attack -- don't mix in a positive message.

Secondly and more seriously, the spot asks viewers to relive the "wafer" incident and the "showing up late for the G8 photo-op summit" fiasco. And yes, I know the ad's purpose is to refute the idea that these are real news stories, but all you are doing is reminding people of Harper's screw ups.

As a Tory partisan you want people to forget that stuff.

And that stuff about Patrick Brown is just confusing.

The only effective part of the ad comes at the end when it blasts Liberal Leader Micheal Ignatieff for having "no policies."

That should have been the focus of the whole spot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Helping so-cons win

The Canadian Centre for Policy Studies has organized an event called "Campaign Essentials for Social Conservatives".

Scheduled to take place on July 27th in Ottawa, the conference is designed to help social conservatives learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to running for public office.

The conference includes sessions on: "Reaching the Young", "Communication Essentials" and "How to be a Catalyst for Change."

What's interesting about this event is its flexibility: You can participate in one, several, or all sessions in any combination. Pay only for what you attend.

Learn more here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My China syndrome

The Sing Tao Daily, a Chinese language newspaper recently wrote a story on me, which you can read here -- if you can read Chinese.

I can't, but luckily the story also includes some English words such as "hard core conservative ideologue."

That's how I know it's about me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Politics and loyalty

National Post columnist George Jonas mentions my book, Loyal to the Core, in this column on the politics of betrayal.

Talking like a conservative

In response to this Jeffrey Simpson column in yesterday's Globe and Mail, I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was published today:

The Stephen Harper I knew and worked with during his time as president of the National Citizens' Coalition was a vehement proponent of lower taxes, smaller government and individual freedom.

Now that he is starting to talk like a true conservative again, I hope he starts to govern like one, too.

Gerry Nicholls, former vice-president, National Citizens’ Coalition

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Media Alert

I will be a guest on the Michael Coren Show, tonight at 8:00 PM EST, as part of a panel discussing federal political issues.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Family Commissar

Ignatieff's Words

Here's a Wordle of a recent speech given by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

It's a great visual representation as to why this guy would make a terrible Prime Minister.

H/T Kady


"You know, there's two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I'm in the latter category. I don't believe any taxes are good taxes." -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Now that's the Stephen Harper I once knew!

It's making me all nostalgic.

Order of What?

The following people have been awarded the Order of Merit:

Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Jean Chretien.

It reminds me of that old Sesame Street game: Which one of these things just doesn't belong.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Harper channels Layton

Here's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a G 8 news conference denouncing "unregulated capitalism."

Unregulated capitalism?

What country in the world has unregulated capitalism? Let me know and I'll move there.

Oh and besides demonizing capitalism, Harper also endorses the idea of "global governance."

So I guess he wants bureaucrats in Europe setting Canada's fiscal policies.

Isn't that just the kind of lefty internationalist stance you would expect from "cosmopolitan", "just visiting", non-true Canadian Michael Ignatieff?

I bet the guy who advised Harper to give that answer is the same guy who advised him on Catholic protocol.

H/T Kalim

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to deal with the media

Every time the Canadian media catches the Conservative Party in some embarrassing situation, Tory loyalists immediately lament the biased nature of political journalism

It’s a familiar chorus: “The media hates us”; “They want to make us look bad”; “Why can’t reporters focus on important issues such as does Michael Ignatieff know all the words to O Canada.”

But what’s the point of complaining? The media is what it is. Reporters will always want to take shots at politicians (especially conservative politicians).

So deal with it.

And one strategy for dealing with a hostile media is really, really simple-- Stop giving reporters free ammunition.

In other words, the Conservatives should stop making it so easy for the media to cast the party in a bad light.

That means when the Prime Minister is taking part in an unfamiliar religious ritual, brief him beforehand on the proper protocol; that means when dealing with a controversial issue such as funding the Gay Pride Parade, have a consistent clear message; that means when you are to appear at a G-8 photo op, show up on time; that means doing simple things like checking your facts before attacking a political opponent.

It's called “professionalism.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Communication follies

Besides lacking a consistent ideological vision, the biggest problem with the Harper government is the general amateurishness of its communication efforts.

I have written about the PMO's communication mistakes in the past.

But this one is unbelievable.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ablonczy sacrificed on altar of political expediency

Yesterday I mused about the puzzling nature of the scandal involving Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy and the funding for the Gay Pride Parade.

Well, after reading stuff like Monte Solberg’s blog and this report, the picture as to what really happened has become clearer – and it is not pretty.

It seems that for some inexplicable reason, the PMO was caught off guard when the Conservative Party’s social conservative base reacted angrily to news that the Pride Parade was receiving $400,000 in funding.

Such a reaction should have been expected.

At any rate, when faced with this negative reaction the Prime Minister should have taken one of two courses.

He should have either a) publicly defended doling out the money and explained to so-cons why he did so, or b) publicly apologized for making a mistake and promising so-cons it would not happen again.

But, of course, he did neither.

Instead, the PMO, in a back door sneaky kind of way, implied the grant was all Ablonczy’s fault. (This by the way seems incredible given the iron-fisted control the PMO exercies over messaging.)

This may have saved the Prime Minister's skin, but in the process Ablonczy, one of Parliament’s hardest working, most loyal MPs and one of the original Reformers to boot, was callously thrown to the wolves.

That just stinks.

Catholic Controversy

If nothing else the mini-scandal on whether or not Prime Minister Harper consumed the Eucharist is giving the Catholic Church and its rituals lots of publicity.

Anyway, my friend Paul Tuns, who is a far better Catholic than I will ever be, weighs in on this issue.

Writes Tuns: "The real scandal ... is the Catholic Church's. My problem is not so much what Harper did or may have done once he was given the Eucharist but rather that he was given the Eucharist. While I am not happy that the Prime Minister or his staff was unaware of the rules of the Catholic Church, I am critical of the fact the bishop provided him the Host in the first place."

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

An even curiouser little scandal

Lots of people are making a big deal out of the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn't consume a host while attending a Catholic mass. (The PMO insists he did eat the host.)

As a Roman Catholic (at least nominally) I take absolutely no offence at Harper's action. I mean, who cares?

This isn't the Middle Ages, the Pope isn't going to excommunicate anybody over this.

But still, what nags at me is this: Why the heck didn't the Prime Minister eat the bloody host!? Yes, I know, he's not a Catholic, but as far as I know the host is not poisonous to non-Catholics.

Did he want to save it for later, so he could add a touch of mustard to it?


Curious little scandal

This whole business of the PMO supposedly punishing Diane Ablonczy for dishing out a $400,000 grant to help fund Toronto’s Gay Pride parade is really puzzling.

Conservative MP Brad Trost recently implied that Ablonczy offered the grant without clearing it with higher ups in the party.

That doesn’t ring true.

Given that Ablonczy is one of party’s smartest and most capable MPs, it just doesn’t seem likely she would “go rogue.”

Nor does it seem logical that Ablonczy, as Trost suggests, is being “punished” to appease angry social conservatives.

If that was the case why keep it secret?

I mean if your going to make an example out of somebody don’t you have make sure everybody knows what you are doing and why you are doing it?

Plus why was it so hard for the media to get a straight answer from the party as to whether or not Alboncy had lost responsibility for overseeing a government file?

Like I said, it’s puzzling.

The only thing for certain is that this whole thing is a PR disaster for the Tories.

Seems to me, they offered this grant as a way of pandering to gay voters, a move which they should have realized would have set off their so-con base.

But now they have not only alienated the so-cons, but whatever goodwill the grant generated with the gay community (which admittedly was probably not a lot) has vanished.

In fact, the media is spinning the story to make the Tories look more homophobic than ever – which will make it difficult for the party to make inroads in urban Ontario.

Better for the party (and for taxpayers) had they not given the grant in the first place.

Just as they should not have given a grant to an Ottawa Jazz festival, or to a Quebec balloon festival or to a potato research centre.

Free market propaganda machine

My column in yesterday's Toronto Sun condemning big government led a certain Rich Murri to write the following letter to the editor:

Re "Bailout bozos" (Gerry Nicholls, July 7): Isn't the writer a close adviser to Stephen Harper? Is he not from the far right wing of the National Citizen's Coalition, a right-wing, anti-union, anti-regulation, free-market propaganda machine? Shouldn't these so-called columns be called by their real name: right-wing political advertising?

It's been a long time since a left-winger attacked me like that -- feels good.

Beware the intellectuals

After reading National Post columnist Robert Fulford's obituary on "wiz kid" Robert McNamara, I starting thinking about intellectuals and politics.

This pondering led to the following letter to the editor which appears in today's Post:

Re: The Smartest Guy In The Room, Robert Fulford, July 7.

This column is a timely reminder that a university diploma isn't everything.

As Robert Fulford notes, Robert McNamara may have been a highly educated intellect, but his policies gave us the disaster that was the Vietnam War.

The lesson: Sometimes great intellectuals just don't make great leaders.

That's something Canadians might want to remember when judging the merits of a certain ex-Harvard professor now leading the federal Liberals.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Liberty Summer Fun

Just a reminder -- time is running out to register for the Liberty Summer Seminar.

Trust me, for freedom lovers this is the must-attend event of the summer.

Just check out this aerial view of where the Seminar takes place.

Media Alert

I will be a guest on the Charles Adler Show today at 2:30 PM EST.

Big government not the answer

Check out my latest column which appears in today's Sun media chain.

It examines the government-spending mania that's taking place on both sides of the border.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Setting Kinsella straight

In a recent Ottawa Hill Times column Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella implied Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a "lobbyist" during his time at the National Citizens Coalition.

I wrote this letter to the editor to set the record straight, which appears in this week's edition.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Star gets it wrong

A couple of days ago, James Travers of the Toronto Star wrote a column suggesting the Ontario Progressive Conservatives had erred in selecting a conservative like Tim Hudak to lead them.

The Tories were looking backward said Travers.

I wrote a letter to the editor to set the record straight. It was published today:

"Star columnist Jim Travers has got it all wrong.

Leftists, not conservatives, are the ones nostalgic for the past.

It's leftists who are eagerly embracing and promoting the failed socialist policies of the 1960s and '70s – bigger government, massive deficits and industrial planning.

Clearly, they have forgotten how such policies led to only thing: economic stagnation.

That's why we need conservative leaders who will stick by their principles.

Somebody has to be there to pick up the pieces."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gag law hypocrisy

There are two things I really despise: election gag laws and hypocrisy.
And the two usually go together.

For those not familiar with the term "gag law", that's what I call federal election legislation which imposes severe restrictions how much money citizens or groups can spend on "political advertising" during elections.

During my time at the National Citizens Coalition, I battled these laws in both the court of law and in the court of public opinion.

I believed then, and still believe now, that gag laws infringe on every Canadian's right to free expression.

Yet one of the pro-gag law arguments I kept coming up against was the following: "It's only fair to deny Canadian citizens the right to free political speech. After all, political parties face expenditure limits. Gag laws level the playing field."

In other words, gag law defenders -- usually politicians -- see spending money as an evil influence on our democratic process. That's why both citizens and politicians need limits as to how much they can spend to express opinions.

And this is where the hypocrisy comes in.

The fact is politicians routinely spend money without any limit to buy votes. What's worse is they don't even spend their own money. They spend our money.

Case in point, is the flagrant way in which the Conservative Party is making political hay out of all that stimulus spending from their recent budget.

As a story in the Toronto Star notes, the Tories are handing out "huge blue cheques emblazoned with the maple leaf logo of the Canadian government, the signature of a benevolent MP and, in some cases, Conservative sloganeering."

If that's not buying votes, I don't know what is. And believe me, the amount of money the Tories will spend this summer on this stuff will dwarf anything citizens or groups would ever spend on election advertising.

So maybe our politicians should either repeal the gag law or refrain from using our taxes for their political propaganda ploys.

It would be the fair thing to do.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Friedman Defending Capitalism

This clip from the Phil Donahue may be ancient but it's still relevant.

H/T Rolph

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Founding debates

This being Canada Day and all I thought it would be appropriate to mention that I am currently reading Canada's Founding Debates, a book edited by my friend William Gairdner.

This book provides a fascinating glimpse at some of the debates over the pros and cons of Confederation which took place in the parliaments and assemblies of British North America from 1864 to 1873.

It's a wonderful intellectual history of the ideas which were to shape Canada in its early days.

What struck me immediately was how our elected representatives at that time employed sophisticated rhetoric and reasoning to support their cases. It's a sad contrast to the juvenile sound bites and taunts which pass for "debate" these days in our legislatures.

And leftists might be surprised to learn that nobody in the founding debates mentioned anything about socialized medicine, peace keeping or the CBC.

Rather the legislators talked about concepts such as "liberty". Liberty, now there's a word you don't hear much mentioned in the House of Commons anymore.

Here's what Richard Cartwright, a legislator from what was later called Ontario, declared in 1865:

"I think that every true reformer, every real friend of liberty, will agree with me in saying that if we must erect safeguards, they should be rather for the security of the individual than of the mass, and that our chiefest care must be to train the majority to respect the rights of the minority, to prevent claims of the few from being trampled under foot by the caprice or passion of the many. For myself, sir, I own frankly I prefer British liberty to American equality."

Bet this isn't reproduced in many Canadian history textbooks.