Thursday, January 29, 2009

Haven't we spent enough time on this?

I have to wonder how long the politicians in this city will continue doing face plants in an effort to cater to a well-heeled, articulate, and voluble interest group on the waterfront, that has now carried its losing campaign against Toronto City Centre Airport into its seventh year. Most recently, the city tried to levy a hefty tax bill against City Centre Airport, and a dispute advisory panel has ruled that the city can only tax the airport based on the number of passengers it carries. The city of Mississauga collects taxes from Pearson airport on exactly the same basis.

Needless to say, the politicians who want to close the airport want the taxes based on their claims about the value of the land, although in public they regularly claim that they want a park on the property, which would, of course, pay no taxes at all.

Surely the time has long passed to put the issue behind us. The waterfront dwellers, with their lobbyists and supporters, wanted environmental privilege; they lost. Bob Deluce started an airline that now stands as one of the few recent business success stories in Toronto. He won. Maybe we should just move on. Nobody can say the governments of Toronto, Ontario, and Canada do not have more important things to pay attention to.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Terror, courage, and justice

President Obama's decision to lead off his term in office by bringing his administration into compliance with the law has led to some hyperventilating from some quite predictable quarters.

I have written elsewhere about my conviction that the use of torture undermines the foundation of Western freedom, limited government under law, in a way that nothing else can. Preserving that freedom takes courage; a people that writes their government a blank cheque in the name of fear will eventually lose their freedoms to a leader who promises security.

But giving up freedom out of fear of a few hundred plotters in al Qeada does not only denote a cowardice that ill becomes the children and grandchildren of men and women who endured the horrors of battle against the Third Reich. It also shows a rather pathetic inability to evaluate risks. Consider this: in the worst years of the crack epidemic, from 1988 to 1992, homicide statistics from the US Department of Justice suggest that conflict over drugs may have led to over 9000 additional homicides. During that period, young drug dealers indulged themselves in expensive cars and lavish pre-paid funerals. Too often, they used the funeral services before they could legally drive the cars. And yet, with all this mayhem, with almost three times the number of deaths caused by al Qeada's attacks on the United States, the American government never considered suspending the rule of law. The perpetrators responsible for drug wars appeared in courtrooms and enjoyed the rights of any criminal defendant. And the rule of law prevailed; even with the terrorist outrages of 9/11, fewer Americans died violently in the year 2001 than in any of the worst years of the crack epidemic.

So people who fret that a civilised nation and justice system cannot handle a few fanatics hiding in attics and scribbling in Internet chat rooms really need to consider their recent history. The justice process has handled serious bloodshed before, and it can do so again.