Canada’s Prime Minister facing a serious scandal

A few weeks ago, Aaron offered this comment:

Gee whillikers — for a couple of Canadians, you two sure are focused on the elections down here! Isn’t there anything interesting going on where you are? 😉

Usually, the answer is No, there isn’t anything interesting going on in Canadian politics.

But now we have a scandal! And not a typical, boring Canadian-grade scandal, either. The scandal involves, allegedly, an attempt to buy the vote of a Member of Parliament who was dying of cancer at the time.

It is alleged that a $1 million insurance policy was one of the inducements offered. Chuck Cadman, who died less than two months later, rejected the offer.

If the allegations can be substantiated, it wouldn’t just be dirty politics:  it would constitute a criminal offence. And the guilty party would be the Conservatives, led by our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Chuck Cadman was sitting as an independent Member of Parliament in May 2005. The Liberals had a tenuous minority government at the time. The government would stand or fall based literally on a single vote. (At issue was a Liberal budget:  traditionally, if Parliament votes against a budget, the government is deemed to have “lost the confidence of Parliament” and an election is held.)

The Globe and Mail broke the story yesterday:

OTTAWA — The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.

The offer, which was summarily rejected by the dying man, is outlined in a biography of Mr. Cadman by Vancouver journalist Tom Zytaruk that is due to be released on March 14. A copy of the manuscript, including an introduction by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, has been obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were “legitimately” representing the Conservative Party. But he says any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray losses he might incur in an election.

Cadman’s widow is the source of the story. She has confirmed her account in a telephone interview with CTV news.

The vote was held on May 19, 2005. Cadman, who had been battling cancer for two years, died on July 9, 2005.

The Liberal Party has submitted a formal request to the RCMP, asking Commissioner William Elliott to open a criminal investigation.

Snapshot from Victoria Falls

Neighbours of ours are travelling around the world. Here they are at Victoria Falls, Zambia:


They’ve been gone since July seeing China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, then various African states. Currently, they’re somewhere in South America (Peru?) on their way home. They’ll return to Canada in a couple of weeks.

Meantime, we’re experiencing the thrill of looking after their two cats. I must have done something terribly evil in a previous life to get the short end of the stick like this.

But I’m not bitter. Just unspeakably jealous.

Urban legend debunked

As someone who has heard a large number of sermons in his lifetime, I can tell you that this urban legend (debunked here) is frequently used as a sermon illustration:

The urban legend is that if you place a frog in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will not attempt to jump out of the pot and will appear as if it is feeling no pain and will gradually boil to death. The story is that being that the frog is cold blooded, its body adjusts to its surrounding environment and it will simply “allow” itself to boil to death. It is often used as a metaphor to say that gradual change can be imperceptible, when compared to a major change, or just throwing the frog into boiling water. …

Vic’s [Dr. Victor Hutchison of the University of Oklahoma] answer was as follows: “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

Hat tip James Fallows, who points out that Al Gore used this illustration in An Inconvenient Truth. In a different post, Fallows points out, “It’s mean to the frogs to keep talking about them this way.”


Barack Obama is a phenomenon that comes along once in a lifetime. Unfortunately for Hillary, it’s her lifetime; fortunately for the rest of us, it’s ours.

Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker.

Two worthy candidates

I watched all of the Democratic debate last night. I think you could discern the story of the evening by following the reaction of the studio audience.

Clinton received rousing applause during her opening statement. At that point, I thought the applause was partisan — I assumed it came from Clinton’s half of the audience.

But when Obama found his feet (his opening statement was halting; I gather that he’s suffering from a head cold), the applause was exactly the same. And then I realized:  the studio audience understands that the nomination battle is effectively over.

This has been a remarkable, historic campaign, between two very impressive candidates. The applause wasn’t partisan. The audience was paying tribute to both Obama and Clinton, and to the Democratic Party.

Clinton had the worst moment of the night, with her canned “Xerox” line. The line didn’t just fall flat; the audience rebuked her for it (check out the video).

Clinton also had the best moment of the night:

No matter what happens in this contest — and I am honoured to be here with Barack Obama — we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends.

The line, “I am honoured to be here with Barack Obama,” was emphatic and heartfelt. Obama responded by touching Clinton on the shoulder and shaking her hand. And the audience rose to give both candidates — but especially Clinton — a standing ovation. (Video here.)

CNN later discussed whether this was Clinton’s “valedictory” moment. And indeed, I think she was effectively conceding that Obama has secured the nomination.

Clinton has passed through Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. We have seen flashes of anger and depression, and a sustained period of denial and bargaining (i.e., for superdelegate support). Clinton has now reached the acceptance stage:

The puzzler of the night, to me, is why Clinton refused to answer a simple question that she clearly has an answer to: And that is: Is Barack Obama ready to be commander in chief? Clearly — the answer, for Clinton, is “yes.” It’s her best argument against him. But twice she avoided it and instead recapitulated her own resume.

At this point, she has nothing to lose by making that argument. The fact that she did not suggests to me that she is thinking, already, about life as a Senator from New York supporting Barack Obama and did not want to give John McCain the soundbite that could doom Obama’s candidacy. I don’t think she’s conceded the nomination in her mind, but I do think she had two temporal audiences in mind when she answered: Democrats now and the nation in the fall.

For that moment of statesmanship, Clinton deserves commendation. I really worried that she would refuse to accept defeat; that she would make things ugly for Obama and the Democratic Party. Instead, she chose the high road last night.

Thus she earned her standing ovation. At her best, Clinton was worthy of the nomination — as Obama surely is.

We have smoke; do we have fire?

Breaking news:
The New York Times has set the blogosphere ablaze by alleging that John McCain behaved inappropriately (key ambiguous phrase) with a telecom lobbyist who is 30 years younger than he is. The relationship kindled concern among McCain supporters eight years ago, during McCain’s previous run at the presidency.

Best one-liner of the morning:

If it’s true, it would bump the Titanic for the world’s most perfect metaphor – sex with a Big Telecom lobbyist.

Weakest denial from the McCain camp:

Top McCain advisers, including his former Senate chief of staff Mark Salter, also say on the record that there was nothing inappropriate done legislatively.

Nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Then there’s this gem:

Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics.

Which arguably is true. But somehow it lacks authenticity, coming from the party which made such a fuss over President Clinton’s sex life, and gave us the verb “swift-boating”. You can safely assume that a Hillary Clinton candidacy would have given rise to a lot of gutter politics from the Republican camp.

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