Dispatch from the Front Lines: Trudeau asks Biden to whip it out
Shootdown over the Yukon. Drama in the Centre of the Universe. Half-baked pot legalisation. Tone deaf leadership at the Corpse. And more!
Hey guys! Sorry to get this to you late. It was a wild weekend in breaking news, all from Friday evening through Saturday (and counting!). So we had to throw out the plan for the dispatch and start over. That’s why this is late. Let’s hope it’s not made obsolete as soon as we publish it!
Enjoy our video below, but remember, it was before The Chaos began.
The podcast is here, with the same understanding applying.
Holy jumpin' Jeepers, folks, we've got more balloons!
On Friday, the Americans shot down another unidentified flying object — gulp — off the coast of Alaska. By Saturday, NORAD was reporting yet another one, this time over Canadian territory. NORAD jets scrambled, and an American F-22 destroyed the object over Yukon. Canadian military teams are now en route to recover the wreck and find out what the hell we are shooting at.
This was an exciting enough little pick-me-up on Saturday, but it wasn't done. Later that night, another air defence emergency was declared over Montana, and American F-15 jets were scrambled out of Oregon to intercept an object that had been detected on radar. They were not able to find anything, and as of press time, NORAD has said only that they will continue to monitor the situation.
A few points we'd make about a truly bizarre series of stories.
The first is that there's nothing wrong or particularly embarrassing about an American plane defending Canadian air space. NORAD is a joint bi-national command. Missions are tasked to the first available aircraft. That might sometimes mean a Canadian jet defending U.S. territory. It's happened! On Saturday, the object was closer to American bases in Alaska than the nearest CF-18 base in Alberta. There probably is a conversation worth having about whether Canada should maintain a small alert force of jets further north, better able to respond in the future. That's expensive and logistically complicated, but may still be worth considering. For now, the system functioned as intended. So we say, quite sincerely, thanks, America. We appreciate the help.
That being said, we do think this is a useful reminder that the long and repeated delays by Canada to both replace the aging CF-18 jets and modernize NORAD with new sensors and capabilities were reckless and dumb. It was obvious that the CF-18s needed replacing when Stephen Harper took office, but we only got that underway in recent months. NORAD, for its part, functions well as an institution but needs upgraded technology. That project also should have begun many years ago. In both cases, we delayed because we didn't want to spend the money and because defence projects in this country are almost always politically fraught. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and now the weird series of aerial intruders is a useful reminder that neglecting your own defences is never a good idea. We are realists about Canada's ability to field a massive military, but our geography, in so many ways a blessing, does impose a few costs back on us. It's not easy to patrol and police such massive territories, especially with a relatively small and concentrated population. But we have to do it. It’s what being a country means. Too often, we haven't. We hope that changes. With the NORAD modernization announced and the F-35s ordered, perhaps we're finally making right some of these failures. We hope so. But we are jaded, friends. We admit that.
Our final point is an appeal to calm. We don't really know what the hell is happening with all these aerial intruders either, but there could easily be a pretty mundane explanation. Radar sets have programmable software filters that are intended to avoid cluttering up the scopes with too much information. Without these filters, clouds, snow storms and birds can cause returns that may look like planes and missiles. One way of filtering out such clutter is by establishing a minimum speed for flagging an object. Balloons are likely normally below that minimum. Your Line editors suspect that part of what is happening right now is that we've adjusted those filters, and are suddenly seeing things that were already there all along.
Is that better, or worse? We don't know. We can make that argument either way. In any case, that may be what's happening.
Or hell, maybe it's aliens, and Canada and the U.S. just declared war on a more sophisticated race that travelled across the vastness of the stars only to end their journey by being murdered by Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden. We doubt it, to be honest. But it's been a weird few years already, no?
Astute Line readers will have noticed that this dispatch is late. You can blame Line editor Gurney for that. While he spends much of his time working on The Line, he's still an active member of his hometown's media, and Torontonians were stunned this week when John Tory — John Tory! — confessed to an affair with a staffer and resigned on the spot. This came less than an hour after the Toronto Star broke the story on Friday evening. Gurney was attempting to watch a hockey game. The news broke just as the Leafs were stepping off the ice after the first period. Tory was gone by the time the second intermission came around.
So that was quite the evening.
This is a personally awkward issue for us. Tory is a friend to Gurney — they worked together for many years at NewsTalk1010, the talk-radio station Tory spent years at before successfully running for mayor in 2014. Covering your friends is never fun, especially when they're in the wrong, as Tory is. Tory is married, and the woman he was involved with reported directly to him.
No one is perfect, and we think the pressures of the pandemic can go a long way to explaining bizarre, self-destructive behaviour on the parts of many people. Tory just got caught. But we aren't here to offer excuses or apologies. What he did was wrong, full stop. We suspect a few more details may emerge that reveal further problems with this relationship, and that those as-yet-unpublished details are why Tory chose to immediately resign. Perhaps that will spare his family, and the young woman, any future coverage. We doubt it. But that's probably the best hope.
Canada's largest city will now have a byelection to choose a new mayor, and we cannot overstate how utterly wide-open this race will be. Toronto's left is disorganized and divided. Tory utterly dominated the centre and even some of the right flank, and there is no natural successor for him waiting in the wings. The city will be embarking on this period of chaos while already grappling with major challenges, including an unfunded budget and a public-safety crisis that has millions of people on edge. It's a bad time for all this, is what we're saying.
Torontonians have memories of wild times at city hall, of course, and if we are forced to return to them, we'll no doubt fall back on old habits. But gosh, this ain't good. And that's why Tory had to go, as much as anything else. The entire promise of Tory's mayoralty, when he succeeded the late Rob Ford, was that his squeaky clean — boring, really — personal life would never, ever cause drama or headaches for Toronto. That was the deal. He broke it. Toronto could do a lot worse than John Tory, and may well find that out shortly, but there's no choice. He had one job, as it were. He failed.
Now we'll see if the bad times are returning. God help us.
A quick note from us on the health-care deal that was announced earlier this week. We don't have much to say about the proposal itself, since the federal government still must cut deals with all the provinces. And until those deals are complete, it will be impossible to assess what, if anything, will be accomplished. Your Line editors are skeptical that just shovelling more money at the existing system will accomplish anything. But we also suspect that's essentially what we'll try.
The only comment we'll make for now is a political observation: