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April 28, 2014

Writing in Postmedia newspapers a few weeks ago Stephen Maher allowed that he felt happy for Nigel Wright; happy that the RCMP didn’t charge him for giving $90,000 of his personal funds to Mike Duffy.  But after reading his entire article I got the feeling that even if the Supreme Court declared everyone in this affair innocent Maher still wouldn’t let it go

His article reads like the fevered imaginings of a conspiracy theorist. Maher senses this when he writes: “You don’t have to sport tinfoil headgear to note how convenient this is for the government.” Then he promptly dons the tinfoil and continues, “The Tories have exerted their control over the RCMP in alarming ways, and Harper has repeatedly shown that it is better to be his friend than his enemy.” 

Then there is this from him:  “Thanks to the RCMP, we know that senior officials in our government were conspiring to cover up tens of thousands of dollars in (seemingly) improper payments to senators.”   I guess the RCMP is only independent when it does something Maher likes.

 In his defence Maher could point out that he also argued senior cops like to investigate politicians, but not charge them. Forget for a minute that Maher is accusing the nation’s police force of closing its eyes to criminal wrongdoing at the behest of the PM;   and forget for a minute that it is not the RCMP who decides if charges should be laid, but the Crown Prosecutor, based on a review of the evidence. What about the fact that politicians Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau and Raymond Lavigne have now and in the past been charged with crimes!

Specifically, Maher’s finds it suspicious that former commissioner of the RCMP, William Elliot is working in New York for Interpol. Never mind that Elliot’s qualifications for the job in New York are impeccable. In his long career as a civil servant he served under both Liberal and Conservative masters at Deputy Minister levels and higher; much of the time dealing with security matters.

And what about Maher’s implication that under the guidance of the supposed “hidden hand” of the Tories Giuliano Zaccardelli interfered in the 2006 election by investigating Ralph Goodale. Stephen Harper wasn’t even Prime Minister at the time and had no influence over a dog catcher in Calgary much less the Commissioner of the RCMP.

 Maher claims that “Politics is by its nature secretive, but Harper has taken this secrecy further than his predecessors.” How would he know? Perhaps Prime Minister Harper’s predecessors were simply better at keeping secrets. Given that Mr. Maher seems to know all of Mr. Harper’s that seems to be a pretty safe bet.

 And what about the media’s reliance on secrecy?  People like Maher and Robert Fife not only rely on, but crow about their use of anonymous sources for information. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that as often as the use of anonymous sources, and leaked information from them, uncovers malfeasance by the guilty, it also heaps an undeserved helping of collateral damage on the innocent.   The more the merrier seems to be the press’s mantra in this case.

Let’s take the sentence quoted above, “…that senior officials in our government were conspiring to cover up tens of thousands of dollars in (seemingly) improper payments to senators.”  What is he referring to here?  At first one might think he means the $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy, but he says “senators” (plural). Is he referring, then, to the improperly claimed living expenses of Harb, Brazeau and Duffy? But government officials could not have been conspiring to cover that up since it was already very publicly in the hands of the independent auditors’, having been referred there by the committee of which I was chair. No, Maher takes two half-truths and conflates them to create a whole that sounds far worse than it would otherwise. It isn’t the truth but so what? He doesn’t have to answer for it in question period every day.

If there is a “miasma of sleaze” around the PMO, as the subheading of Maher’s article suggests, it is because he wants there to be. I’ll  go out on a limb and say  there is no major scandal here, and never has been – either in the PMO or the Senate -- except the one ginned up by the media and the other political parties. The decision not to press charges against Nigel Wright is the first objective indication of that.  I can understand the other political parties interest in seeing a big scandal, but the media, in its eagerness to sell copy and garner more investigative reporting awards, when this is all said and done, is going to have to account for its willingness to go along with those parties, with little questioning  of their motives.  Or maybe they won’t.

February 10, 2012

The P.M. has urged Canadians to quit smoking. I support him wholeheartedly.  As an ex-smoker myself, I know that it is easier said than done. I write this as a smoker of some 38 years; and that is fudging a bit because as a teenager I have to admit I snuck a smoke here and there. I can't use the excuse that I did not know better, as my parents were adamantly opposed to it especially my mother who didn’t need medical evidence to know it was bad for you and told me so. She figured that if you put smoke in your mouth and lungs it would not be good for you. But I didn’t listen because smoking was cool. James Dean smoked for pete’s sake.


It turned out to be a horrible habit that consumed money, time and poisoned those around me. I would smoke while I was at my desk, while eating, drinking, going for a walk to get “fresh air” and driving. It consumed me.


At the age of 58 I got on a bike in the gym and after five minutes I was exhausted, gasping for air. That day I was determined to quit. I had tried before and on two occasions for a considerable amount of time. Once for almost a year. But all it took was a cigar with a brandy after a steak dinner in downtown Vancouver to cause me to walk out of the hotel at eleven P.M. looking to buy cigarettes and stoke my habit. I smoked five of them before falling asleep thinking about how I had failed again. Miserably.


Later I tried the patch only to remain addicted to the nicotine. Once more failure and regret at another opportunity passed.


I was 58 and I had that constant smoker’s cough and the need to have a smoke as I rolled out of bed in the morning and sometimes in the middle of the night. I had quit drinking a decade before and I thought that perhaps quitting smoking would be easier. It wasn’t. I needed a plan. A plan that would be permanent. That's why I am writing this.


I am a catholic and don't need to share my sins in public to receive absolution. But I figure my experience might help you quit if you are a smoker and if you’re not my experience may cause you never to light up. My experience will also prove to smokers that there is a great life after smoking.


My plan was based on need as well as habit. Circumstances have a lot to do with smoking. I was already not smoking at work because of the Parliamentary ban. It also came to my attention that one of my employees was getting sick from my addiction. I needed to go outside to smoke and I noticed I could go longer and longer between cigarettes at work before having to step outside. This was a clue and led to the first of my rules. No smoking at work at all. After work or at lunch I could still smoke as much as I want, but not at work.


This meant I could not leave my office at home or at work to go for a smoke. I decided to add to this list. No smoking in the vehicle. I could stop and smoke as much as I wanted but I had to pull over(the modern-day counterpart is  getting over your addiction to talking on the phone while driving). No smoking for an hour after getting out of bed in the morning and of course no smoking in the house or the garage or any other interior. No smoking with coffee even on the deck. After I had finished the coffee I could smoke my brains out. No smoking while on the golf course. You get the idea. The list has to include all the things that you enjoyed while smoking.

This was how I approached the first two weeks of my month long quitting smoking program. I know it sounds great when you say I quit cold turkey but what you don't quit are the triggers to the cigarette. I quit the triggers first. I was not going to smoke after a beautiful steak dinner again.

What kept me going was the knowledge that I could still smoke as much as I wanted but not when it involved my list. All you smokers have a list. Write it out. That's a great first step.


A funny thing happened. After two weeks I had noticed a sharp though not overwhelming decline in my cigarette consumption, but really at no major discomfort. I never smoked less then a large pack and could easily consume two packs. I was now less then a pack a day. The next two weeks were made up of two phases. The first week I could smoke 25 half cigarettes per day and I had to throw away the unsmoked half. Less nicotine but still appropriate satisfaction. The rules still applied. No smoking the list. The last week was still half cigarettes but day one was 15, then 10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2. On the 21st of August, 2003 at 10:30 PM I had my last half cigarette.


But even after you finally quit for good, it's not done. For years you will have the urge from time to time but it is fleeting, I promise you. You will also be so happy that all those triggers were dealt with. Getting in a car will not be troublesome. You got over that the first two weeks.


Three years ago at the age of 64 I participated in my first 10k and finished. I can now do 5000 meters on the rowing machine in less than half an hour. I can go on a very long bike ride without hardly breaking a sweat.


Good luck in your effort to quit smoking.