• In democracies there is always tension between the “good ideas” that government has for spending taxpayers’ monies and taxpayers’ desire to spend it themselves.

    And increasingly nationally financed broadcasters such as PBS in the United States and CBC in Canada are questioned regarding value received for value expended.

    In dictatorships there is no argument. If Putin wants to spend $50 billion on the Sochi Winter Olympics, it is spent. If Beijing’s leadership wants to spend uncounted billions for the 2008 Summer Olympics, it is spent. But the Atlanta summer Olympics (1996) and the Salt Lake City winter Olympics (2002) were essentially privately financed. Less glitter and glitz, but less public expense.

    [ David Kilgour: Canada still needs a healthy public broadcaster ]

    And comparable points are relevant for government funding of news media: newspapers, television, and radio. It smacks of official “party line” control leaving readers cynical about whether there is any “news” in Pravda

    Read More »from Future of the CBC: It’s time to pull the plug on taxpayer-funded broadcasters
  • In the ongoing debate about the roles of the CBC/Radio Canada and private broadcasters, the recently-announced cuts at the corporation of 657 jobs and some programming will add high-octane fuel. The other David will write about commercial broadcasting; the focus here will be on the public broadcaster.

    For more than 75 years, CBC/Radio Canada has attempted with varying degrees of success to be our national public broadcaster in two official and now eight aboriginal languages. Today, whether by television, radio, the Internet or social media, it continues to reach millions of households across the country every day. Many of us assert that its 82 radio stations in local communities are what provide the major appeal of the CBC for most Canadians.

    There are also 27 television stations and 11 foreign bureaus. As of March 2012, it had 7,304 permanent full-time employees, 469 temporary full-time employees and 1003 contractors. According to a mid-2011 study by Deloitte, the contribution of

    Read More »from Future of the CBC: Canada still needs a healthy public broadcaster
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has done what he was warned against — incorporating Crimea into Russia. This land grab occurred with barely more than a “Trudeau salute” to chattering, dithering, fulminating critics in Kiev, the EU, NATO, UN, and Washington. Crimea is now as Russian as Moscow; this egg will not be unscrambled.

    The best way to punish Putin is to strengthen Ukraine politically, economically, and militarily.

    The Measure of the Man. In assessing Russian President Vladimir Putin, one needs examine some baselines. He was not a career politician, businessman, or military officer, but rather a senior KGB intelligence/control bureaucrat. He was never a reformer in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin camp. He has described the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” Consequently, his objective is to restore as much as possible the pre-1991 Soviet empire.

    And, at age 61, Putin can play a “long game.” He need not move immediately; rather he can

    Read More »from Vladimir Putin: The best way to stop him is to empower Ukraine
  • Apart from Catherine II and Peter I (“the Greats”), Alexander II (“the Liberator”) and Mikhail Gorbachev, few Russian leaders appear to be respected today by both Russians and the world. Boris Yeltsin demonstrated courage and democratic instincts as the twice freely-elected president of Russia in the 1990s. Most of the world’s democrats would probably say his most serious mistake was resigning his position in 2000 to Vladimir Putin, who would assert five years later that the “collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

    Russians have demonstrated for centuries that despotic governance can be transcended by a determined and talented population. In science, music, sports, literature, ballet and other fields, Russians continue to excel.

    Unfortunately, prosperity continues to elude most Russians, partly because from 1917 until the 1990s ideologues banned the manufacture of virtually any consumer product foreigners might wish to buy. The Organization for

    Read More »from Vladimir Putin: Driven by Russian nationalism
  • At the recent Sochi Olympics, Quebec athletes made all Canadians proud, filling numerous places on our national teams and winning a disproportionate number of medals. Many of them spoke to media in natural and moving ways about being proud to be both Canadians and Quebecers.

    Quebecers have long excelled in many fields, including culture, entrepreneurship, academics, finance, philanthropy and aeronautics. It is self-evident to many observers around the world that Quebec and Canada are stronger together, both at home and internationally, especially in the current difficult economic circumstances.

    For the April 7 provincial election, however, if truth is probably the first victim in every election campaign, the one now in full flood across the province is in a distortion field all of its own.

    One example is the province’s financial position, which has attracted little reality-based comment to date from either major party’s candidates, perhaps because government debt ballooned from

    Read More »from Quebec votes: Supporting the PQ agenda a dangerous and expensive gambit
  • Leaders of Quebec's political parties pose for a picture prior to their debate in Montreal.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Quebec is having an election. Called on March 5, it will be held on April 7.

    An election — not Apocalypse Tomorrow.

    It is not as if Quebec has been short of provincial elections pitting Liberal Party federalists against Parti Quebecois sovereignists with ancillary third parties to spice up the competition.

    Nor is it unusual for the PQ to enter the campaign as a heavy favorite, like the Parizeau-Landry 1994 PQ team and the 1998 Bouchard-led PQ incumbent government. Indeed, Parizeau promised to hold a referendum on Quebec sovereignty within a year of a PQ victory, and many observers anticipated a Bouchard victory would lead inevitably to a repeat of the 1995 referendum. Even the 2012 election predicted a PQ victory when viewing the nine-year Liberal government on its “10th life” (with the intimation that a Marois government would seek the proverbial “winning conditions” for a referendum).

    But the level of frenzy in the current electoral campaign appears

    Read More »from Quebec votes: Election result is a long way from a referendum result
  • A man holds a candle during the funeral of Volodymyr Topiy, 59, who died during recent clashes with police.

    The curtain has risen on Ukraine: Act II. The scenery has changed with a first batch of actors hustled off the stage but the basic plot line remains: Ukraine is up for sale, but who will be the purchaser?

    The drama continues — but the audience is even more confused. Initially when the “play” opened, there was watchful anticipation by the EU and U.S. audience as they attempted to sort out the plotline. Was Yanukovych a good bad guy or a bad good guy in control of Ukraine? Had he imprisoned the lovely princess (Yulia Tymoshenko) or was she just another kleptocrat with movie-star looks? Should the audience cheer for Yanukovych as the democratically-elected president or root for the crowds in Independence Square seeking his ouster with claims of free speech, assembly and association?

    Finally Yanukovych resorted to desperate measures. Riot police and snipers killed upwards of 80 protesters. No more semi-tolerant half-measures. It was not massacre on the level of Cairo’s Tahir Square, but

    Read More »from Crisis in Ukraine: Splitting Ukraine could prove the best solution
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

    The Russian media and ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych are striking in their attempts to rewrite events in Kiev, calling it a “fascist coup” that justifies invading a sovereign country.

    Probably no one outside Ukraine has cut through the propaganda more effectively than Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale and author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin: “Ukraine (under Yanukovych) was governed by probably the most financially corrupt regime in the history of the world, which by the end of its rule was not only physically oppressing, but finally killing its citizens … (for) exercising their rights to speech and assembly.”

    Snyder notes about the early protests, “Enter … an Afghan...Mustafa Nayem, the man who started the revolution. Using social media, he called… young people to rally on the main square of Kiev in support of a European choice for Ukraine. That square is called the Maidan … an Arab word. During the first few days of the protests, the students

    Read More »from Crisis in Ukraine: A lesson in Finnish history may be the key to a peaceful conclusion
  • Some dismiss concerns about security surveillance, saying that no one but spies and terrorists need worry if their phone calls and emails are monitored by government agencies.

    One response to this view came recently from U.S. President Obama. “Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power,” he said. Canadians historically are more trusting of government than Americans, but Obama’s opinion no doubt applies to Canada as well in a post-Snowden world.

    If the National Security Agency (NSA) in Washington would tap German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for years, as it did, little appears beyond the attempted grasp of security agencies today. The otherwise beneficial security sharing and co-operation agreement among Canada, United States, Britain, Australia and France also promotes overlapping bad practices.

    Recent revelations are not reassuring. One was the approval by the commissioner of our Communications

    Read More »from Electronic spying: Surveillance can only be acceptable with a warrant from a judge
  • Privacy is a relatively new “right.” In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court had to invent a right to privacy to permit access by a married couple to contraception; again, more famously, it arose in 1973 Roe v Wade to protect a woman’s right to abortion on demand. The court pretzeled the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to create this right.

    For its part, the Constitution does not mention privacy.

    Indeed, the degree of privacy that today’s Americans and Canadians consider the norm would have been risible a generation ago.

    Bluntly, “privacy” is a modern affectation. And one which technology now has made electronically irrelevant; the government’s protestations of adherence to law should be skeptically viewed.

    [ Kilgour: Surveillance can only be acceptable with a warrant from a judge ]

    Privacy, moreover, is a circumstance that appears less and less relevant to most citizens. Social media is replete with photos and videos that in days of yore would have been regarded as “soft porn." Users of

    Read More »from Electronic spying: In the age of Facebook and Twitter, nothing can be considered private


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