Welcome to Margret Kopala's web site

2008 Articles by Margret Kopala

'Rights' without obligations, and Britain's spiral into moral decay

An adolescent British girl is imprisoned for murdering her younger lesbian lover. One of several children by a mother given to serial unwed pregnancies who is then habitually abused by a half brother, she finds herself among the spawning British underclasses subsisting on social housing and regular welfare payments -- not much but enough to feed herself, allow regular sleeping in and sustain an alcohol and drug habit. It is under these influences that she chases her lover down the hall brandishing two butcher knives and then weeps as her victim lies bleeding in her arms, complaining about the pain and feeling cold.... (more)

December 30, 2008

Senate Reform is Still Possible

The recent fiscal update notwithstanding, the prime minister’s reputation as a tactician gifted in seeing where the puck will be is more than justified. But unless he acts prudently in the matter of Senate appointments, he risks going down in history as another John “had a choice” Turner. Make no mistake. Fierce lobbying for Conservative senate appointments has been underway ever since the prime minister indicated he would appoint senators rather than pin any hopes that some future government would adopt his cause for Senate reform. These appointments, we learned this week, may occur before Christmas. But by rushing to appoint hacks and flacks who obstinately adhere to rigid ideas around Senate reform ensures the current stalemate will continue and that any hope of reform is effectively dead. Reform, however, is possible... (more)

December 13, 2008

A little breathing space

Whatever the future holds for Canada’s government, it is incumbent on the prime minister and ultimately the governor general to ensure it is achieved in a stable and orderly way. Haste towards a coalition government, which the opposition parties might have instigated as early as Monday, is antithetical to this. The prime minister is therefore properly requesting that Parliament be prorogued, a request the Governor General should grant. Wiser heads may then prevail. Should the government then fall on a confidence motion when the House reconvenes in January, and should a coalition replace it, it will have had the benefit of additional time for reflection. More importantly, it may reconsider its position entirely. Riddled with dangers, hidden and obvious, the Liberal/NDP coalition will depend for its support on a separatist faction that renders it inherently unstable; worse, a coalition that has little representation in Western Canada but that will use the proceeds of its powerful economic engine to prop up antiquated or failing economies in the East can only reawaken western separatist sentiment and the possibility of another kind of national unity crisis... (more)

December 4, 2008

The Next Industrial Revolution

Seeking the Liberal Party leadership, Stephane Dion tempted us with ideas about how green technologies might spark another industrial revolution; instead we got the green shift. This was disappointing because whatever its failings and wherever you stand on the causes of climate change, innovations are necessary if only to address problems around depleting, costlier or less environmentally friendly sources of energy such as coal and oil sands extraction. In this more modest regard and contrary to what the ‘dirty’ oil brigade would have us believe, Alberta is creating something of a revolution of its own. At a cost of $2 billion, the government has made the world’s largest single financial commitment to cutting edge technology that will capture and store greenhouse gases from Northern Alberta oilsands reserves second in size only to those of Saudi Arabia.... (more)

November 22, 2008

Palin Changed Everything, Too

Barack Obama made history when he became the first black president of the United States of America but it is Sarah Palin who changed it for all women. Not that her candidacy hasn’t been controversial. The unabashedly fecund, pro-life Palin was perceived by some in the culture wars as a well-placed gotcha blow to the nihilistic orthodoxies of the secular left while for those of us who, on a less abstract level, passed on having children to pursue careers, her candidacy was a reminder of what we missed. Her religious affiliations and Annie Oakley style made it easy to dismiss her as an unsophisticate with few qualifications though even Camille Paglia, a cultural analyst and dissident feminist who supported Obama, felt Palin represented “an explosion of … muscular American feminism”. The absence of experience had some validity but that did little to mitigate reminders about the growing absence of children in most of our lives... (more)

November 6, 2008

Demographic Shift challenges Alberta

The election of Alberta’s first NDP member of Parliament in two decades places Edmonton, politically speaking, on its way to becoming another Toronto or Vancouver. The shift, electorally speaking, isn’t difficult to trace... (more)

November 3, 2008

RCMP’s E Division should stand up for itself

The RCMP has its problems but nothing justifies cowering before special interest groups. This time, it’s ‘E’ Division that’s under fire from the Pivot Legal Society in a Vancouver battleground where electoral politics has nothing on the politics of supervised drug injection. The Downtown Eastside’s Insite is on the brink of becoming Canada’s worst public policy disaster, yet last week the Pivot Legal Society called for Canada’s auditor general to investigate the RCMP’s authority to commission research into the facility’s effects on crime and associated issues. The problem? First - and despite the information being available on one website over a year ago - Pivot alleges the research was “secretly” commissioned; secondly, though two reports were favourable to Insite, two were critical: one by Garth Davies, a professor at Simon Fraser University and the other, the now seminal analysis entitled A Critique of Canada’s INSITE Injection Site and its Parent Philosophy.(more)

October 20, 2008

How to win the drug war

There’s been little mention in this election campaign of the most pernicious evil of our time. Yet recent reports from a UN agency leave little doubt that the war against drugs is being won and that, with full engagement, victory is if not possible, then very nearly possible. The World Drug Report 2008 launched in June by the United Nations Office of Drug Control reveals how opium and coca cultivation, whose heroin and cocaine extractions are the scourge of Canada’s inner cities, are now largely confined to rebel-held areas in Afghanistan and Columbia. It also reveals how worldwide deaths from illicit drugs at around 200,000 a year pale in comparison to deaths from legal psychoactive substances such as cigarettes (5 million a year), and alcohol (2.5 million). “The drug problem was dramatically reduced over the past century,” says UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, “and has stabilised over the past 10 years.” --- In other words, prohibition works.... (more)

October 6, 2008

Canada’s food safety crisis

I begin by summarising some commentary on the global credit crisis written earlier this week by Times of London columnist Anatole Kaletsky. Important distinctions exist between the real economy and financial markets, he says; by attempting to anticipate the real economy, financial markets are inherently prone to self-reinforcing cycles of euphoria and panic. A gap between the two economies is therefore normal, though during this credit crisis, thanks to the U.S. subprime mortgage imbroglio, there’s disproportionate growth in the financial. Here, repackaging of debt between financial institutions has mushroomed around the world even though the debt between the original U.S. borrower and mortgage company, however irresponsible or opportunitistically based, remains the same... (more)

September 20, 2008

Remember our political heritage

Republican presidential nominee John McCain took a calculated risk in selecting Alaska Governor and arch social conservative Sarah Palin as his running mate. On the one hand, she is inexperienced at the federal level. On the other and in as little as four years’ time, she will have all the experience she needs to lead the U.S. fight for energy independence gratis its most northerly frontier. It’s a stark reminder of Canada’s deficiencies in this and other regards. It was John Diefenbaker who first drew attention to Canada’s vast northerly potential. Speaking to a Toronto audience in 1957, he invoked Conservatives’ sacred trust with the traditions of John A.Macdonald. “It has an appointment today with destiny, to plan and to build for a greater Canada,” he said, in oratorical flight that would leave Barack Obama in the dust. “We intend to launch a national policy of development in the northern areas which may be called the New Frontier Policy.”... (more)

September 6, 2008

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Toward a new North America

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) is dead. Long live the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. After NAFTA, the SPP has been the most significant development in North American integration, so its imminent death and potential resurrection seem strangely out of step. Yet this is the only conclusion possible reading "The Future of North America: Replacing a Bad Neighbour Policy," which appears in the July/August edition of Foreign Affairs... (more)

August 23, 2008

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Corporate Canada declines

Some call it treasonous but however you regard the hollowing out of Canada’s corporate sector be assured it continues apace. To takeover numbers worth some $835 billion and swelling since 1985 to around 11,000 corporations, we may soon add the venerable Alberta based TransAlta Utilities. What’s remarkable is how LS Power Equity Partners (LS Power) and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) didn’t consider this takeover sooner. As a major generator of coal, gas and wind energy whose forerunner Calgary Power Company was founded by W.Max Aitken in 1903, TransAlta Utilities has fifty such assets located around the world with the majority located in Alberta where it also supplies most of the province’s power. In addition, LS Power already has 9% of TransAlta’s common stock and owns power generation assets all over the U.S. Adding to the mix, GIP specialises in infrastructure investments worldwide while its owners - Credit Suisse and the world’s fifth largest multinational conglomerate, General Electric - are providing the financing though for all their riches, they don’t explain why the $7.8 billion they are offering is only a fraction of what it would cost to build such assets from scratch... (more)

August 9, 2008

Time for an immigration time out

It's the Hail Mary pass that could break the public opinion logjam and create Canada's next majority government. Experts agree Canada's immigration system is out of control but is there a political party with the courage to implement a moratorium on new applications until its backlogs are cleared and new policies are in place?... (more)

July 26, 2008

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Of fish, oolichan and small miracles

Epidemics of obesity and diabetes are ravaging the Western world. In Canada alone over 2 million of us have the disease with aboriginal people three to five times more likely to develop it. By 2010, the Canadian Diabetes Association estimates a cost of $15.6 billion to the healthcare system, rising to $19.2 billion in 2020. But thanks to the determined work of a Metis physician and a small First Nations band living at Alert Bay in British Columbia, a year long experiment featuring a fat-and-protein based traditional aboriginal diet offers hope that a solution is possible... (more)

July 12, 2008

Leadership in bad times

The biggest impediment to greatness for the Wayne Gretzky of politics is want of a capacity for transcendent leadership. It is also rapidly becoming the greatest impediment to his remaining in government. The measure of leadership is not how well you do in the good times but how well you do in the bad. The spate of political upsets now nipping at the Achilles heel of a manifestly talented prime minister has rendered him dog tired and snarly. From Lukiwski to Mulroney-Schreiber to Cadman to Bernier to dealing with professional and procedural incompetence in Crown agencies and legislative committees, his beleaguered government has too often used the sledgehammer instead of the rapier... (more)

June 28, 2008

Hooliganism begins in the home

Hooliganism has plagued Europe for decades but who thought that, in the spring of 2008, the "British" disease would strike Quebec? The riots that followed the Canadiens' loss in April's NHL playoffs shocked Canada and wrecked downtown Montreal property. Given dramatic changes to marriage in Quebec, this may not be so surprising. As British columnist and author Melanie Phillips argues in The Sex-Change Society: Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male, men who fear losing their masculine identity behave in stereotypically masculine ways. Football, for instance, "has helped preserve and restate ideals of masculinity in a society that that has displaced notions of what it is to be male. ... Even football hooliganism has been explained as a 'quick way to fill a previously empty trolley in the masculinity supermarket.'" Hockey hooliganism can hardly be different.... (more)

June 14, 2008

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What we know about marijuana

Leading the National Post debate on cannabis, columnist Barbara Kay can’t have anticipated that Vancouver’s safe injection site rather than legalized cannabis would be the Trojan Horse for the legalization of all addictive drugs... (more)

May 31, 2008

What we know about marijuana

Same-Sex Marriage: The Canadian Solution

A caution regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in California

Explaining its recent decision to legalize same sex marriage, the Supreme Court of California rightly refrained from offering any judgment about it as policy; rather, the court limited its consideration to the constitutional validity of same-sex marriage. But like Canadian same-sex marriage advocates, it erred when it compared the ban on same-sex marriage with the U.S. ban on interracial marriage that was overturned in 1948.... (more)

May 21, 2008

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The harm in 'harm reduction'

Health Minister Tony Clement announced new funding for drug treatment facilities in Vancouver but, understandably, he didn’t comment on Insite because its future is now before the courts. Hearings over jurisdiction of Vancouver’s controversial safe injection facility concluded in a B.C. Supreme Court on May 7 and though a judgment is due in early June, appeals are probable, as is an injunction to keep the facility open past June 30th when its exemption under federal drug laws expires. Certainly, the plaintiffs are well prepared. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, an association of heroin and cocaine users, and The Portland Hotel Society, a downtown eastside residents group that helps run Insite, are largely funded through B.C.’s health ministry by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority which in turn runs Insite... (more)

May 17, 2008

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The rise of the single mother

Be it the growing power of rights over duties, feminism over traditionalism, or simply a society that makes it economically feasible to parent as a never-married woman, there is hope that the trend is turning around

It was a symposium on same-sex marriage that cold January day in Vermont, but on the subject of marriage generally, Patrick Fagan's power-point presentation went much further. There, on a large screen, a bar graph demonstrated how for psychological health, wealth and other optimal outcomes for children, a biological mom and a dad in an intact marriage did the best job. At the opposite, bottom end of the graph, well past the married stepfamilies, the divorced single parents and the co-habiting couples, was the never-married single mother, whose grim prospects included grinding poverty, little hope of a future marriage and children with behavioural problems that too often led to a life of crime and yet more unwed pregnancy... (more)

May 11, 2008

Time to ride into the sunset

It’s past time to put “E” Division out of its misery. Oh, I know. Studies, recommendations and implementation plans for rehabilitating the RCMP are underway but it’s unlikely the overarching need for leadership, streamlining and a clear cut mission will arrive soon enough to prevent more catastrophes. Like the taser death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport, the botched communications that allowed a man in violation of a court order to visit his three children in Merritt, B.C., then to be charged in their slayings, tops a history of missteps and out of touch police work. So “E” Division has to go. With some 6000 officers in 126 detachments throughout British Columbia, the contract for Canada’s largest RCMP division is up for renewal in 2012. And as retired Judge Wallace Craig has argued in Vancouver’s North Shore News for the last few years, it is now or never to decide B.C.’s policing arrangements for the subsequent twenty years... (more)

April 26, 2008

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The gain drain

The conventional wisdom that immigration is an economic boon to Canada isn’t holding up under scrutiny

Immigration has a long history of successful settlement in Canada while globalization has increased acceptance of a coffee-coloured world and provided endless supplies of skilled and other labour to western democracies; so what’s not to love about mass immigration? While Canada’s opposition parties quibbled over modest measures expediting the arrival of skilled immigrant workers, one answer to that question appeared in a report from the British House of Lords. Stunningly, it concludes that record levels of immigration bring no economic benefits....

April 12, 2008

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We can't just trust the experts

The always fatal but slow to incubate bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) is more prevalent in older animals, so when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allowed re-entry of Canadian cattle and beef over the age of 30 months to its market, the ultra-protectionist U.S. cattlemen's association, R-Calf, took it to court. Allowing re-entry of older Canadian cattle and beef has created an "unjustified and unnecessary increased risk of infection of U.S. cattle with BSE," R-Calf argued even as the USDA offered scientific evidence to the contrary. Particularly helpful to the USDA is how such evidence made cheap Canadian cattle and beef available for its large meat packing industry. What hasn't helped is the recent discovery on an Alberta farm of a 12th case of BSE, but at least Canada is fessing up. This development isn't welcome, a Canadian Cattlemen's Association spokesperson said, but "... it does prove the system is working and the producers are on board with the program"... (more)

March 29, 2008

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Canada, U.S. find a trade solution

You have to hand it to the Americans. The U.S. softwood lumber market, not to mention the global economy is tanking, because of their self-inflicted subprime mortgage crisis. Nevertheless, they have the audacity to haul Canadians into arbitration for failing to anticipate it. The U.S. housing collapse means less softwood lumber is required for building houses. Not content, however, with seeing the Canadian softwood industry on its knees, the U.S. government invoked the provisions of the 2006 Soft Wood Lumber Agreement last summer and accused Canada of failing to abide by agreed export quotas based on "anticipated consumer demand." Now, the London Court of International Arbitration has slapped both countries on the wrist for having struck a substandard agreement and returned them to their sandboxes to brood over their pyrrhic victories. Are there lessons here? You bet. Especially for those concerned about the North American Free Trade Agreement... (more)

March 15, 2008

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Why need an RCMP we can count on

Reading Dale of the Mounted In the Arctic by Joe Holliday, it's easy to see why a prairie boy growing up in the 1950s would want to become a Mountie. Dale is courteous and self-effacing, yet resourceful and surefooted when tackling crime, then there's that dashing red serge. Dale's adventures stretched across Canada, including, in Holliday's term, Canada's "Arctic Empire." Boy's own to be sure, but the Dale of the Mounted series is also symbolic of the esteem in which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was held in post-war Canada. At the zenith of its achievements and under the leadership of legendary figures like Sam Steele, the Mounties had grown from being a force for establishing orderly authority in Canada's northwest to an internationally recognized organization... (more)

March 1, 2008

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Identity politics and subprime loans

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined early calls to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States despite having the competence and character for the job. The integrity of a preacher's daughter that cautioned against exploitation of her race or gender for political purposes was likely one factor in her decision. In the Democratic nomination race, the triumph of identity politics is being wildly celebrated, as if black or female presidential nominees are something new. Yet in 1872 the Equal Rights Party nominated a woman named Victoria Woodhull for president and a black running mate, Frederick Douglass. Of course those were genuinely transformative times in which people saw themselves not as victims but as powerful actors in a political landscape where much needed to be done... (more)

February 16, 2008

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Remember the Neanderthals

No one knows exactly why Neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago, but a new theory recently reported in the Boston Globe suggests that once able-bodied women, the “reproductive core” of their small population, began hunting with the men, it was game over. Already in survival mode, their combined forces were no match for the perils of climate change, ferocious beasts and interloper Homo sapiens, according to the theory. Worse, while a few Neanderthal men might be expendable, reproductive women were not. In this light, last week's decision from a Manitoba High Court confirming the right of two high school girls to try out for the boys' hockey team, while advancing women's rights, may also be retrogressive... (more)

February 2, 2008

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Finish the work of Reform

The burdens of leadership fell heavily on the shoulders of Abraham Lincoln but lifestyle considerations were assuredly the least of them. Leaving Springfield, Illinois to become president of the United States, he informed his law partner and future biographer, William Herndon, that "If I live I'm coming back some time, and then we'll go right on practising law as if nothing had ever happened". Contrast this with Brian Mulroney, whose Gucci excesses, dancing "with the lady that brung ya" and "jobs for the boys" helped launch a reform movement in western Canada and, arguably, are again raising eyebrows in Alberta where a poll recently found the Conservatives down 23 points. At some unconscious level, at least a few Albertans must be wondering why the prime minister isn't finishing the job the Reform party started those many years ago... (more)

January 19, 2008

We have yet to feel the full Alberta effect

A friend of mine was surprised to learn this summer that her modest, northeast Edmonton home was worth a small fortune. Today, a glut of properties on the market suggests lower prices even as landlords charge exorbitant rents to meet oversized mortgage payments... (more)

January 7, 2008







Let's make Canada shipshape for the 21st Century