As always, folks, we welcome your comments on the dispatch, but please refrain from replying to each other, which leads inevitably to much evil and great sadness across the land.

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Jan 29, 2023Liked by Andrew Potter, Line Editor

I’ve been a longtime National Post subscriber, but the paper is a shadow of what it used to be. I’ve kept my subscription going, but there’s been a few points where I’ve asked myself why do I bother? There’s been a steady series of departures of my favorite writers. I think if John Ivison and Colby Cosh left, I’d be finished. There’s also been a few periods where the paper has lurched towards populism for a while - not really my cup of tea, and I already avoid Conrad Black and Rex Murphy columns as it feels like they lost the plot several years ago. I’m glad that The Line has been carrying on a lot of the Post’s tradition of fun, slightly irreverent writing.

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As a rare visitor to the comments I don’t know what are the latest rules, so apologies if referring to the podcast breaches some obscure etiquette but:

Honestly, hearing nearly every week how the Conservatives will turn every event into a drum-beating fundraising email is getting a bit tiresome.

I’m not on the Conservative email list, but as someone who is/has been in the fundraising lists for the NDP, Greens and Liberals, if you think any of them lets any opportunity for fundraising slide, you are sadly naïve. During the height of one of their fundraisers, the NDP sends multiple emails per day, each practically trembling with hysteria on how the Conservatives and Liberals will gut the healthcare system or, in BC, reminding you with the subtlety of a mob enforcer that they didn’t give you a $100 credit on your Hydro bill for nothin’, sunshine. Being in power, the Liberals of course have a harder time claiming they’ll save the country from themselves, but all that expensive communications training is used to flood inboxes with emails telling us how Poilievre’s policies will “roll-back gun control” & promote “volatile crypto-currencies” (13 emails received between Dec 30-31 alone).

(I won’t get into the Greens, I assume their relative restraint over the past few months is more down to hopes that giving people time to forget about their ludicrous implosion will pay off in the long run.)

As you can guess from my inbox, I’m pretty far from being part of the “Conservative base”, but even I find the harping on how the Tories (and apparently only the Tories) will use every piece of news as a fundraising hook, to be silly and maybe even a tad disingenuous. I realize this seems like a very trivial complaint, but one thing I love about The Line is how you guys really do come across as genuinely non-partisan most of the time, pointing out the failures of all parties. So each time you guys talk about the Conservatives ominously using current events to raise funds, it comes across like the Required “Evil Tories” Genuflection that all Good Canadians must do, before tentatively observing that they might have a point on an issue.

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Jan 29, 2023·edited Jan 29, 2023

Matt (sorry, Jen): I feel your pain about the TTC. Not.

That is terribly rude but it is truly heartfelt. I offer a further comment that you might (or might not) find useful.

Our governments (federal and provincial but, boy oh boy, very much the feds) are telling everyone, everywhere that they, I say THEY, have the answer to everything. They "understand" the climate file and are planning to spend untold billions, no, trillions. They "understand" the "gender / racial / God knows what" files (note: plural) and are planning to spend undiscovered / unknown / unknowable amounts. They "understand" so terribly many files and are actively planning to spend, again, undiscovered / unknown / unknowable amounts.

But, there is not enough money to fix potholes, school buildings date from the late nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century and are falling apart. Health care simply doesn't have enough money to do what "they" say should be done, but then, no amount of money is enough.

My point is, the governments (again, plural) are simply trying to do far, far, far too much and have not the skill or, certainly, not the resources to do anywhere near enough of their basic (please note: basic) obligations of government, let alone the extended "requirements" that the enablers continuously require, which requirements keep getting more outrageous.

Ultimately, I believe that there are one of two possible scenarios: first, these goofs in government and their enablers who vote them along in order to ride the gravy train will not change and the whole system will collapse due to the impossibility of meeting any, I mean ANY, reasonable standard of accomplishing even basic tasks; or two, the governments will realize that they are waaaaaayyyyy over extended and will pull back from all the various frills (which will infuriate the enablers referenced above) and will then be able to accomplish the core mission of government.

Me? I expect scenario one to occur.

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This comment is to bring to Jen and Matt's attention (if not already aware) an Opinion piece written by the Globe & Mail editorial board titled "How BC can win the war on drug addiction". It makes some cursory remarks about recovery treatments and how BC and Alberta are going about in that regard. This is obviously something that was discussed in great detail in the Marshall Smith interview here on The Line.

The G&M piece does actually link to The Line interview and quotes Mr. Smith. However, the G&M editorial board reduced the entire interview and all the information in it to just "Mr. Smith attacks the BC drug addiction policies". Additionally, the piece claims that there is little to no information/data about addiction and treatment stats available publicly. This runs directly contradictory to what Mr. Smith said in the interview.

While it is pretty obvious that the narratives that the G&M editorial board peddle is directly contradictory with what Alberta is doing, I found it quite reprehensible how they took a superbly detailed interview and reduced it to just an attack on another province's drug addiction policy.

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It's an interesting tale you tell about the CBC hit piece, and it totally hangs together when you tell it this way. I mean, we all want to BELIEVE that our media institutions hold fast to high ideals, and approach all political stories with the balance and neutrality uppermost in their considerations.

But I notice that you told the story in exactly the reverse order of events.

First, the CBC claimed there was clear evidence (which they had not seen) of interference of the Crown Prosecutors. Smith 'called their bluff' with the extensive email search - and it was only AFTER the announcement that no offending emails had been found that the CBC "doubled down" and switched their tune to claiming that Shandro had been unduly pressured (as you pointed out, the allusion was "ala SNC Lavalin").

Except, as you did go on to point out, THAT story has no legs. It doesn't even make sense upon examination.

So what we are left with is a clear cut case of the CBC purposefully smearing the government in an election cycle, with no backing evidence whatsoever. Almost as if they had a preferred outcome in said election....

I don't WANT that to be true, but on the face of the evidence we have to date, this is exactly what appears to have happened.

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Pace dear Line Editors. I do not find it at all implausible that the CBC might publish a tantalizing, but actually false allegation, that it made insufficient efforts to verify. Especially if the assertion has a certain “truthiness” to it, and is congruent with the kind of cant and “progressive” confirmation bias that one would expect to find at the CBC. After all, Smith is an undisciplined politician, so this sort of knock against her, seems quite believable – in character so to speak. Especially if her office is staffed by young and ideologically driven novices.

On the other hand, the proposed scenario is certainly bizarre. What would-be influencer would make this kind of pitch, in writing, in an email, rather than over a quiet drink at a local watering hole or over the phone?

However, a mere reader, like me, cannot even begin to assess the situation without knowing the parties to the communication and the timing and the text of the message, so that one can see whether it hangs together? Is it consistent with the known facts?

Likewise, how credible is Smith’s denial and the purported search for the email on government computers? Indeed, how thorough could it be, without the identity of the parties and the text – quite apart from the obvious possibility that the participants used their personal emails, so that searching in the government system, is looking in the wrong place? And as an aside: does “deleted” mean “unrecoverable”? Because that is certainly an odd thing to see in respect of an internal government communication, and in a context where there are legal rules about record retention, quite apart from the skills or forensic investigators.

In that setting “can’t find it, nothing to see here”, is of minimal help, by itself.

Cynics will also remember the effort by Ontario Liberal apparatchiks’ to wipe clean the government hard drives, containing information embarrassing to the McGinty government and the efforts of the defense department officials to hide documents despite an obligation to disclose them in Admiral Norman’s criminal trial (google: “Admiral”, Henein “not our first rodeo” for that reportage).

So, the custodians of electronic storage are not necessarily to be trusted either.

Be that as it may, the SNC Lavalin precedent (and maybe the sponsorship scandal) suggest that this kind of chicanery is not a resigning offence for the head of government. The nominal boss can get away with not resigning. And if Smith loses, it will become irrelevant. My guess is that the election will settle these questions, not the justice system - amusing as it would be to see a legal circus in which the taxpayers are funding both sides.

But it would certainly be amusing if this incident turned out to be a honey-trap, designed to induce the CBC into revealing its biases and credulity.

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Re: Do we have the wrong people — the wrong type of personality — running everything in this country?

Focusing only on the leadership at the Federal level, I can only imagine the stresses that COVID-19 put on the decision makers in Ottawa. But we need to be fair here: Ottawa became a ghost town and yet the bureaucracy was still expected to pull together the wildest assortment of programs to help Canadians in short order, and much of it from scratch. To come out of the other side of the pandemic with any semblance of sanity is no small thing.

To come back to the original question, do we have the wrong type of people running everything? Rather than give the bureaucracy a chance to breath and regroup the Liberal/NDP alliance have made the nightmare worse, forcing day care and dental care plans onto the civil service as well as half baked gun control and internet censorship initiatives. The short date timelines imposed for implementation will produce a rushed effort that will blunder along for years, sure to please no one.

I’m not sure what the haste is? Do those in the halls of power see the end of the line coming soon? Or is the optics of saying and doing things superior to doing things well?

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Jan 29, 2023·edited Jan 29, 2023

You should get over the idea that lockdowns were "necessary". They clearly weren't: Sweden never had one, and Florida dropped them in September 2020.

If you want to defend them, you need to argue net benefit. But as their perfectly predictable and widely predicted harms mount and mount, the "net benefit" claim is looking less and less plausible.

Unless, of course, you think the wave of excess deaths in many countries, including Canada, has been caused only by the injections so many people were coerced into taking?

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"journalism that is worth paying for". You, before anyone else, can answer the question about your work. If your incomes are "fine", then "Yes"; if not, "No". You two are some of the best in Canada...so should provide good guide to the absence of value from the MSM.

My guess, the MSM is in "stage 4" of terminal operations.

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"Far from stabilizing the business, the staffing cuts have continued while taxpayer money continues to flow to both senior management in the form of compensation, and in the form of payments to Chatham Asset Management, the New Jersey-based hedge fund that owns Postmedia."

Hmmmm. It sounds like some rules should have beem laid down as to the money staying in Canada at least.

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let's start with the fact that the cbc has established itself beyond doubt as a full patch member of the 'blob,' plus an active agency of the liberal party pr team. add in the necessity to insert quotation marks around the words 'reporter' and 'journalist' and you have a pretty good reading on the credibility of the cbc — even when compared to a political office. the conclusion is beyond obvious: defund the cbc

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Pierre Poillievre hasn't been away from the media. Over the last number of months he has been interviewed on CKNW in BC several times as well as appearing a number of times on the Roy Green Show. His absence that you are referring to has only been from the Ottawa-centric Liberal/NDP Parliamentary press gallery media-types.

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My comment comes from a place of simmering frustration, not as a result of Covid. In my case as an over 60 career policy analyst and lobbyist I watched from the sidelines and have become more patient and empathetic rather than less. That had to be a goal of all good people who are no on the verge of depression. My frustration is the homelessness and mental health care crisis which are a provincial responsibility. John Tory’s summit of : levels of government is another start. Toronto cannot do it alone. It’s laughable if it weren’t so sad and entrenched. In my view the only way homelessness will be solved may be through the notwithstanding clause. Backlash to institutionalization led the province to close all institutions that cared for the mentally ill and the half way houses that provided check in community and live in support in the hood. When the homeless, the majority if whom struggle with mental illness and/ or addiction, refuse help most often it’s because they fear what happens next, they may have a sense of community they don’t want to lose and they are literally off their medication. The courts have ruled if they are not s threat to themselves or others they can choose to live rough. We get it but the role of our elected leaders must be to provide the homeless with care that in many cases they don’t know they need. They are lost to themselves. Provide the mental health workers, the places where they can treat and house those that need care, nourishment warmth and safe drugs. Get them a diagnosis, help with addiction, offer pharmaceuticals that will calm their demons, use a social worker to help them apply for welfare and establish s network of supportive housing. This takes s political vision, money, buildings, and a solid network of funded community supports. We blew it when we moved mental health care from an institutional setting into the community. It became invisible, unaccountable , difficult and then it seems to have simply vanished. The measure of our civilization in this affluent country has to be the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens. The courts clearly are not intended to be a place where compassionate government policy and programs go to die. Where are our leaders?

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Jan 30, 2023·edited Jan 30, 2023

On the media bail out issue -- this is a policy issue that goes beyond newspapers. It's kind of been the standard Canadian approach to all industries in transition -- whether that's manufacturing or newspapers.

The problem -- as outlined -- is it tends to transfer a lot of money to shareholders and owners, while only slowing the loss of jobs. And -- while hundreds of millions are made available for owners/managers, the people on the front line, when they lose their job, do not find similar levels of support.

As pointed out, this is kind of the worst of all worlds. It stiffles innovation and encourages existing industries to continue outmoded practices with government support. But, it merely slows down layoffs and doesn't really help people once they lose their jobs.

Given the pace of modern capitalism, we really need a smarter approach. I'd advocate for allowing owners/shareholders to take the hit -- that's how capitalism is supposed to work: people take risks and either win or lose. But, we should transfer the money we currently give instituations and help those impacted by the changes to make the transition to something else. That sometimes means shifting to new markets, moving to new places or even starting new businesses. I'd be a lot happier to see Post Media decline faster and have public money fund all the reporters being layed off to find new employement or start new ventures. It would be better for people -- and probably make for a more dynamic economy.

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Regarding the TTC:

In addition, to the pandemic issues you noted, I’d suggest some other changes are afoot at our beloved TTC – predating the pandemic.

Not so long ago, the TTC felt like a safe place. For example, back in high school I’d meet street kids who’d pull their tickets apart and use one half, imagining they tricked the driver into letting them on the bus or past the booth. But once they were on they were safe, and free to ride the rocket.

There was also day when you’d get back to Toronto from college, you’d be at Union station with your luggage, but with no wallet or spare change – what were you thinking!! All you had to do was explain the situation to the fare collector and offer to pay double next time – and they’d let you on!!

The TTC was no utopia you could get into conflicts -some violent and newsworthy, but it was all very human, the collectors were looking out for you at the end of the day.

Nowadays, with the presto card system, there has been a switch from fare collectors to police -either constables or fare inspectors. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what I blame.

To be sure, the York region Transit has fare inspectors, too, -it’s a normal thing in many cities– and the inspectors are usually kind, hard working folks, but the transition didn’t seem smooth in Toronto. It felt threatening. It felt like a loss of a safe, public space.

There is no return to the olden days. But if my suggestion is true, maybe the TTC and politicians can find thoughtful ways to retain or restore kindness and dignity on the TTC.

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