If you are near Halifax Tuesday night, you can get the latest information about Sable Island's transformation into a National Park at what promises to be a fascinating meeting. The 9th annual Sable Island Update, latest in a series of meetings oganized by naturalist and longtime Sable resident Zoe Lucas, will see illustrated talks about scientific and organizational developments on the island. This year's session will also feature an an extended opportunity to question Parks Canada officials about their new role as federal stewards of the island. Lucas began the updates a decade ago, when Environment Canada announced plans to abandon the...

The Senate expense scandal, and the government's malodorous handling of it, has given new life to shopworn nostrums for reforming or eliminating Canada's maligned upper chamber. All have flaws ranging from severe to fatal. Eliminating the Senate would eliminate sober second thought, that useful brake on the unfettered power of a majority government in the "dictatorship between elections" that is Canadian democracy. Electing the Senate would imbue the upper chamber with legitimacy, empowering it to act much as the U.S. Senate acts, with all the attendant complications for passing legislation. Creating an Equal Senate, with the same number of members from every province,...

No sooner did I write that two veterans would get the last word on the Remembrance Day poppies discussion, than a Facebook message arrived from my friend Walter Van Veen, whose teenage father spent the war hiding in a secret compartment in an Amsterdam flat. A Jewish family shared the compartment. Facing starvation, they gave themselves up a few weeks before the end of the war—and were killed. Walter's father held out and survived. Walter writes: You know my take on this [the media firestorm over white poppies being handed out at the National War Memorial]. This is one fairly cynical narrow view...

A Connecticut reader who describes himself as a paratroop veteran from the Korean War era who was lucky to be assigned to Germany, "rather than that slaughter house of Korea," writes: I find this convention that has developed of saying, "thank you for your service" off-putting. It immediately shuts the door.  Nothing more to say except, "Thank you." Puts us in a box. You will never hear veterans speak to each other this way. Besides, the dirty little secret is most of us had the time of our lives. It was great fun. Another reader sends along this message from his brother, a Vietnam vet....

[See correction appended below.] I am amazed that Liberals and New Democrats have not been more effective at highlighting the hypocrisy of the Harper government's claw back of services and benefits to veterans—especially vets who suffered cruelly in Stephen Harper's Canada's* Afghanistan adventure. Demonstrations on Remembrance Day weekend protested the closure of Veteran's Affairs offices across the country. Recent news stories have highlighted the government's haste to drum injured vets out of service before they qualify for extended benefits. The contrast proved too much for a Halifax friend who watched the Halifax Mooseheads organization celebrate "DND Night" Friday. He writes: Two dignified octogenarians in wheelchairs...

Growing up in the 1950s and '60s in the United States, where right-wing scoundrels turned patriotic symbols into political cudgels, left me with a lifelong aversion to flags, ribbons, lapel pins, and other obligatory trappings of national fealty. When I moved to Canada, this aversion morphed into a disinclination to wear poppies. As best I can tell, most Canadians see the poppy as a neutral symbol of respect for veterans. Social pressure to wear it is strong. Acquaintances and strangers alike view my failure to fall in step as inexplicable, disrespectful, and distasteful. I regret this. After years of attempts to...

Cliff White sides Bousquet: I love the discussion about the superports. Tim Bousquet nailed it. You will remember that a lot of the hype about the Atlantica concept was based on the same false assumptions. During that debate one brilliant supporter suggested reducing transportation costs by hiring Mexicans at low wages to drive the trucks. At the time I was working for The Council of Canadians. I was heavily involved in organizing against the initiative, until that is I realized it was a delusional pipe dream cooked up by AIMS and some elements of the business community.  At that point I stopped...

Contrarian reader Tim Segulin writes: Senators were appointed by the Monarch (via the Governor General on the advice of the PM) from defined regions within Canada on the basis of the excellence they had to offer review of government legislation in its final stages. They were there to be the final quality control against the passing of biased, defective or unfair laws from the Commons. To do that, they had to be independent of electoral politics and political parties. Senators were intended to call it as they see it, and propose constructive suggestions to improve proposed laws without fear of petty political reprisals...

If I had edited Mike Duffy's speaking notes before his address to the Senate yesterday, I would have red-penciled the opening reference to a "heart condition" aggravated by "months of unrelenting stress,"  and to "my beloved Prince Edward Island," along with a few adjectives  at the end ("monstrous," "outrageous"). As John Iveson noted in the National Post, "Duffy does not cut a very sympathetic figure," and these rhetorical flourishes don't help. Still, it's hard to read this and not suspect that the senator has a point, and that Prime Minister Harper has a problem. It's long, but I urge you to click "read more" and keep reading after the jump.
Honourable Senators, I rise today against the orders of my doctors who fear my heart condition has worsened after months of unrelenting stress. But given the unprecedented nature of today’s proceedings, I feel I have no other choice than to come here to defend my good name. Like you, I took a solemn oath to put the interests of Canadians ahead of all else. However the sad truth is, I allowed myself to be intimidated into doing what I knew in my heart was wrong, out of a fear of losing my job, and a misguided sense of loyalty. pullquoteMuch has been made of the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright. I hope I’ll be able to give an explanation of the chain of events, and the circumstances surrounding that gift, without impinging on the rights of others to a fair trial should criminal proceedings follow. Let me summarize it this way: Dec. 3rd, 2012, The Ottawa Citizen ran a story asking how I could claim expenses for my house in Kanata, when I had owned the home before I was appointed to the Senate? The inference was clear. I was doing something wrong. I immediately contacted Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and explained that I was doing nothing improper. Nigel Wright emailed me back, saying he’d had my expenses checked and he was satisfied that my accounts were in order. That all was in compliance with Senate rules. In fact he said there were several other Senators in the same situation, and that this was a smear. Following the PMO’s advice, I ignored the media. But the attacks from Postmedia continued, and the political heat escalated. So after caucus on Feb. 13th I met the Prime Minister and Nigel Wright. Just the three of us. I said that despite the smear in the papers, I had not broken the rules. But the Prime Minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth. It’s not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that has been created by the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base. I argued I was just following the rules, like all the others. It didn’t work. I was ordered – by the Prime Minister – to “pay the money back!” End of discussion. Nigel Wright was present throughout. Just the 3 of us. [Continued after the jump]

Previously, Contrarian's curmudgeonly friend, who happens to be an aging white man, commented sardonically on all the factors besides talent that Stephen McNeil would have to weigh in selecting a cabinet. Contrarian, who is likewise aging and white [see illustration at right], allowed himself to fantasize about a cabinet chosen solely on the basis of ability. One Contrarian reader took this as a prescription for a cabinet of old white men, to which I replied, "Seriously? Aren’t we past the day when aging white men with old ideas are the only people thought to have talent?" Contrarian reader Jesse Gainer writes: I'm rather shocked you find...