I searched online today for any news article dated after January 30th about the accused shooter in the murder of six men and the injury of nine others, all of whom were praying at their Quebec City mosque on January 29, 2017.

It’s been less than two months, but the killer seems to have vanished from the public record.  Only the BBC continues to cover the story.

Last August I posted a column on this blog suggesting that one way to discourage domestic terrorism would be to deny notoriety to the perpetrators.  Reporters seem to have done that in spades in this case.

I can’t help but wonder, however, if the news vacuum might have more to do with the pur lain surname of the perpetrator and the non-French surnames of the victims, rather than my suggestion.

The media silence, broken only by an Angus Reid push-poll today against 103, the Anti-Islamophobia motion, suggests that Canadians just want to forget that this massacre ever happened.  We’re good at that.


On March 25, 1969, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau famously  told the Washington D.C. Press Club:

Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant.  No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.

This quotation has stood until now as the preeminent metaphor to describe Canada’s attitude toward the United States.  I’d suggest that Trudeau-the-elder’s quip has worn itself out.

With the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the recent presidential election, an Indian folk tale* of the boy on the runaway elephant might apply more readily to the situation. Seized by the hormone surge of the must season, the massive creature, driven by his instincts and appetites, careens down jungle roads with little awareness of his direction or his effect upon the villagers in his path.

Enter the handler’s son, a young man with some understanding of elephants from his father and a good deal of pluck.  He seems to have dropped from an overhanging branch onto the runaway’s back, and now has the task of doing what he can to calm the valuable behemoth and as much as possible direct him away from the more obvious hazards as he plunges through the labyrinth of jungle roads until the panic abates and the elephant can return to his work of moving logs as the economic engine of the village.

Having dropped into this unexpected role, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done rather well so far.  His initial heroic impulse to leap astride the beast rather than confront him has received support from a team of wise and resourceful villagers who have run alongside and hung baskets of food and water bottles from branches in his path.

In President Donald Trump’s speech to the Joint Session of Congress yesterday he indicated at least an awareness of his youthful passenger, and generally accepts his presence.


Once the cartoonists draw it, it’s fact, so I eagerly await the first artist’s attempt at this meme. I’ve never liked the elephant-mouse bit.

* Dr. Robert Moore, a diplomat from Guyana, included this story in a lecture to the Lanark County Board of Education, sometime in the late 1980’s.


Sean Spicer seems determined to protect Donald Trump from his own fabrications.  This requires a level of intellectual dishonesty inconsistent with the correct use of English grammar.  Look at the sentence below which I culled from today’s Toronto Star:

“He believes what he believes based on the information he was provided,” said Spicer, who provided no evidence to back up the president’s statements.

The use of the noun clause what he believes indicates a relatively sophisticated intelligence in that it indicates a willingness to deal with a known unknown.

But then comes the dreadful passive construction based on the information he was provided.  Nobody believes the voice who utters a clunker like this.  It’s a childish attempt to hide either the facts, or the lack of facts.  It’s a passive “The front window was broken” when only  the active “I broke the front window” will do.

So what’s wrong with Spicer?  He uses the passive voice.  The information he was provided will not do it.  The White House Press Corps, the American People, and certainly we, Canadians, will have no use for him until he uses the active voice exclusively and he shows the source of every single bit of information which crosses his podium.

It’s all in the grammar.


To the Tower with him!

January 24, 2017

If Trump’s crew continue with their program of alternative facts, what if journalists created an alternative president?  What could Trump do if CNN, BBC, CBC, Reuters and other media outlets reported thoughts and activities of Mike Pence as though he were already Head of State?  How long would it take for White House sycophants to catch on and switch their allegiance?  A gradual increase of Pence standing could lessen the load of expectations for which Trump is clearly not prepared.

If world leaders denied standing to Trump and looked instead to Pence, could the Donald’s lies and loose-cannon rants be contained before he does any real damage?  A figurehead president, Rapunsel-like, could live out his term away from the White House, pressing buttons on a mere video-game representation of World politics, and given his lack of interest in real input, remain none the wiser.

Over the years the Tower of London has housed kings and pretenders in similar fashion.  This is not a new idea.


Cash for Access

December 20, 2016

Here’s a thought:

Over the last few years my contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada have been directly tied to the level of abuse Justin Trudeau has faced in the media during his time in office. Unfair attack ads opened my cheque book because, like a distant but somewhat protective parent, I felt I could at least do something to defend the guy.

All fall I have ignored the LPC email stream begging for contributions because things were going pretty well for JT and the Liberals and they could get along without me after we had gotten rid of Harper. It seemed it was somebody else’s turn to pay the piper. I didn’t mind if it was Chinese billionaires. It at least showed the Liberal Party had gotten off their butts and learned how to raise money.

But now the media’s lining up on this ethics issue. The LPC has learned to find the money to operate, but they’re vulnerable because of the catchy  bumper-sticker phrase “Cash for access.”

I guess the condemnation is really directed at me, the lazy parent. So last night the cheque book opened up again.

Remember when the Canadian media called Justin Trudeau a hypocrite for refusing to condemn Donald Trump during the long presidential campaign? Turns out JT was wiser than his naysayers thought.

Then his loudest detractor quipped he would be no match for Trump in negotiations. Cheap bumper-sticker thought, that Bambi-vs-Godzilla line from Kevin O’Leary.

Even Michael Harris’s David-vs-Goliath comparison is a poor analogy, because it still speaks to a cranky, insecure Manichean tradition of the battle to the death between principalities which today is far from the Canadian experience.

The last fresh idea about Canada-U.S. relations (mouse-sleeping-with-a-friendly elephant) came from the elder Trudeau, come to think of it.

From what I’ve seen of Donald Trump so far, the elephant-in-an-orange-toupe idea still retains a good deal of currency.  Justin Trudeau would fit naturally into the role of the rider trapped on this panicked elephant as the United States careens along the road, driven by its fear and natural urges, but unsure of its destination, or even direction at a given moment.

I’ll watch with interest the first public encounter between Trump and Trudeau, but I expect  the rider will continue to calm the behemoth and begin to nudge it away from the more obvious hazards as it burns through its manic energy.

About that Vox Pop survey

December 7, 2016

For non-Canadian readers, electoral reform is a big deal in Canada after the man we chose as Prime Minister promised during the campaign that the 2015 election would be the last one with First Past The Post voting.

Word about a survey popped up last week, primarily due to the Prime Minister’s decision to send every Canadian of voting age a postcard inviting them to complete the online survey the government has sponsored as part of the electoral reform process.

For me so far, electoral reform has been the activities of others, of intense interest to the interested, but external to my inner thoughts. But it’s an important decision, and as individual and intimate as one’s time in a voting booth.

I understand the ridicule directed at what I came to consider a well-structured survey. Someone called it a push-poll, but couldn’t articulate its point. I’d suggest the point of the Vox Pop Labs interactive online survey was to push laggards like me into beginning our internal dialogues.

I can march along with the Liberal band without a lot of daily thought. Be nice to others, look after the environment, pay one’s debts, make contributions when they ask — standard stuff.

But do I want government to consist of endless compromises to accomodate every single-issue group in Canada?  No, I chose a strong majority on the survey. Do I want to be able to boot the wretches out?  Not on a daily basis.  Once every four years would be fine.

The crunch came when I had to choose whether to use the electoral process to concentrate power in my own cultural tribe, or distribute it “fairly” to all of the other tribes. That’s where I drew the line. I don’t want to give up power at this stage in life.

The other decision point was easier: I don’t want to vote for a party list. I am not a Leafs fan. I want to know the man or woman who will represent me, and I’ll make up my own mind. Proportional representation is out because it has too many working parts. Sorry, Lizzie May, I like you but I don’t like PR.

To my surprise I realized my likely vote in a referendum would be FPTP or Ranked Ballot. Subject to other inputs. Vox Pop forced me to start the internal dialogue. Creepy, especially for those who prefer to keep their politics on the outside.


Update, 7 December

My friend and correspondent Tom Stutzman asked what I meant by “keeping their politics on the outside.”


Pundits treat electoral reform as something to write about.  They remain detached and are affronted when someone asks them, “What’s in your soul?”  

They react about the way they would to a salvationist at the door.  This poll asked Canadians quietly to take stock of their innermost thoughts on the subject of electoral reform.  It gets the reader’s attention prior to the ensuing learning activity.  That’s Trudeau’s B.Ed. showing through.

Canadian pundits don’t want to be taught much, especially about themselves.