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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Trump’s trial defines justice in disrepute – A Canadian perspective

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

Canada and the US both have a problem with rogue judges

Whatever one thinks of former President Donald Trump, his criminal trial violates the jurisprudence established  by England’s Lord Chief Justice Hewart: “It is… of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

Judges too often preside over cases despite having a conflict of interest. Trump’s argument had merit, that having the Democrat stronghold of Manhattan as the venue for his trial was unfair. And the assignment of Acting Justice Juan Merchan for the trial may reasonably be said to be corrupt. The US Judicial Code says: “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik says Justice Merchan contributed to the Democrat campaign in 2020. And his daughter, Loren Merchan, is heavily involved in Democrat politics. Stefanik says her firm stood to profit from Trump’s conviction. So, one may presume the judge’s bias against Trump.

The charge against Trump was that money was paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet and not undermine his presidential election prospects in 2016. Paying money to suppress prurient assertions is not illegal. But, it was said to violate US election law if intended to influence the outcome of the election—and not merely to protect Trump’s reputation. Given what everyone knows, how could publication of Daniels’s assertions influence a single voter’s intentions?

Many other wandering public figures come to mind. Certainly, Presidents Kennedy and Clinton. Said to be expert on the bedroom ceilings of rich men, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman was Clinton’s ambassador to France.

Textbooks and case law forbid judges to hear cases where there could be a perception of bias. A landmark case involved an application by the Spanish government to extradite former President Pinochet of Chile from England. Lord Hoffmann was the swing vote in the decision that immunity did not prevent extradition. The House of Lords set aside that judgment because Lord Hoffmann had been chairman of Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Pinochet’s prosecution. The judges said that the Amnesty link was an automatic disqualification for sitting on the case.

During the 2022 truckers’ protest in Ottawa, Chief Justice Richard Wagner made outlandish comments about an incipient revolution. The Canadian Judicial Council, of which he is head,  exonerated him. By contrast, Justice Thomas Berger of the BC Supreme Court resigned gracefully after being scolded for non-partisan comment on the entrenchment of Indigenous rights in the Charter.

A typical case of conflicted judging is MediaTube v. Bell Canada, discussed at length in my book Justice on Trial. The plaintiff asserting that Bell stole the technology for FibeTV. The Federal Court’s trial judge, Justice George Locke, had been a partner in the firm of Norton Fulbright that acted for Bell. His decision in favour of Bell is gobbledygook. He acknowledged that Bell had constantly changed the description of how their system worked, as if they didn’t know that. Arguably, Bell and their lawyers McCarthy Tétrault committed the criminal offences of perjury and obstruction of justice. Justice David Stratas spoke for the appellate judges despite having previously represented Bell before the Supreme Court. In 130 words, he justified the exclusion of new evidence by citing a case that had analyzed the purported new evidence in 9,000 words.

Trump’s case follows ones described in Christie Blatchford’s book, Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting—Or how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system (Especially judges). “The judiciary,” she wrote, “is much like the Senate. Like senators they are unelected, unaccountable, entitled, expensive to maintain and remarkably smug.”

Canadians as well as Americans need outside accountability for lawyers and judges. As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, “If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Where was Canada’s Governor General on D-Day?

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Colin Alexander

There really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

On D-Day June 6 Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon should have taken her rightful place. At ceremonies in France. But she wasn’t there. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed her aside. As usual.

The D-Day landings may seem like ancient history even as June 6, 1944 was a defining day for Canada. But it’s important to recall that over 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach, as part of the largest amphibious landing in history. More than 5,000 Canadian troops were killed and thousands more injured in the Battle of Normandy. While we celebrate the eventual defeat of Germany, we may also recall Winston Churchill’s saying we need to remember that there was a Germany before Hitler.

The military historian Basil Liddell Hart had a view of history that’s largely gone missing in the western democracies. Essential reading is his book, Why don’t we learn from history? He quoted the Roman historian Polybius: “There are two roads to the reformation of mankind—one through the misfortunes of their own, the other through the misfortunes of others; the former is the most unmistakable, the latter the less painful…we should always look out for the latter, for thereby we can, without hurt to ourselves, gain a clearer view of the best course to pursue… the knowledge gained from the study of true history is the best of all education for practical life.”

Arguably, the conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza could have been averted or could have evolved less disastrously by heeding the lessons of history—and, specifically, from history of the two World Wars. Undoubtedly, the mismanaged exit from Kabul emboldened President Putin. Disaster in Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea represents failure to heed the ancient principle, also from Roman times, If you want peace, prepare for war. There was no deterrent to the invasion of Ukraine. And the western democracies have consistently delivered far too little materiel and far too late.

There’s abject disrespect at the highest levels for truth and tradition, and the values that made of Canada a great country. I came across a phrase in news  reports that made me shudder. The Governor General was relieved of her duties when it was she who should have hosted a state dinner for President Joe Biden in 2023. Prime Minister Trudeau had no business relieving her of her duties. He usurped her constitutional role.

The Governor General was also relieved of her duty to attend the D-Day ceremonies in France. Arguably, it was her job to unveil unveiled a statue commemorating Canada’s participation. In her capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, Princess Anne performed that ceremony. Fair enough. But as a minimum, the Governor General should have been there too. Instead, of course, Trudeau traveled to France after shunting the Governor General off to perform a token ceremony in New Brunswick.

My point is, there really are non-partisan functions that need to be done by the representative of all Canadians, the Governor General, and not that of a self serving, partisan and narcissist politician in pursuit of photo-ops.

Canadians don’t normally need to know that the British North America Act vests in the Governor General an ultimate duty to override political abuse. But that’s why King Charles’s representative signs legislation into law as well as other proclamations. That function, and the power to withhold it, is the last resort for maintaining the free and democratic society that Canada purports to be.

History tells of ultimate leaders who failed that duty to their people. In 1921, under pressure of riots, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III refused to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law. Instead he dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to take the power that evolved into his dictatorship. Similarly, in 1933 Germany’s ailing President Paul von Hindenburg signed into law the Enabling Act that empowered Hitler’s unbridled exercise of power.

D-Day reinforces this lesson from history, from two thousand years ago. The Roman political philosopher Cicero warned: “Though liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our constitution speaks of the people’s general welfare. Under that phrase all manner of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants …”

In sum, it’s important to learn history and to maintain traditions. That includes having Governors General who insist on taking the lead role as Canada’s functional head of state—and, most importantly, not having politicians usurping the vice-regal role.

Colin Alexander’s degrees include Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford. His latest book is Justice on Trial: Jordan Peterson’s case shows we need to fix the broken system.  

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Energy

Why we should be skeptical of the hydrogen economy

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Hügo Krüger and Ian Madsen

Hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative.

At first glance, using highly variable, intermittent, inexpensive renewable energy to produce hydrogen for energy supply stabilization seems logical. However, renewable energy is not always readily available. The concept of hydrogen as a ‘buffer,’ akin to a battery, to ensure consistent renewable power is more complex than it appears.

Upon further examination, the idea is impractical and expensive for several reasons. Among them, hydrogen has a low energy density by volume, compared to well-established and practical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. It also has a low ignition point and is three times as explosive as natural gas, which could be either positive or negative, depending on its use.

Contrary to claims, renewable energy is neither inexpensive nor environmentally benign. Storing hydrogen in a natural gaseous state requires massive, costly storage vessels. Electrolyzing is expensive and will likely remain that way. Similarly, the cost of producing hydrogen is higher than that of deriving it from natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide, which is unwanted. There are some other techniques, such as pressure, heat, and radiolysis from radiation emitted from nuclear reactors, that are feasible, perhaps in combination. Small ‘micro nuclear reactors’ may drive down these costs. Atomic reactors are already used in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers to produce aviation and diesel synthetic fuel.

There are also a series of impractical issues. Existing pipeline infrastructure cannot transport pure hydrogen due to hydrogen embrittlement, and hydrogen cannot easily be used as a transportation fuel. A new Teflon-coated pipeline and distribution system parallel to the existing natural gas network would have to be built, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in North America alone.

While the idea of synthetic fuels using hydrogen may seem more feasible, it would likely be limited to a ‘niche role,’ potentially in natural gas-deficient nations. However, this would still necessitate significant investment. Ultimately, diverting funds to this ‘hydrogen economy’ could be a misallocation of capital from other, potentially more viable, areas.

Download the full report in PDF format here. (16 pages)

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer, and civil nuclear engineer who has worked on a variety of energy related infrastructure projects ranging from Nuclear Power, LNG and Renewable Technologies. He holds a Master’s in Nuclear Civil Engineering from École Spéciale des Travaux Publics, du bâtiment et de l’industrie, Paris and a bachelor’s from the University of Pretoria.

Ian Madsen, BA (Economics, University of Alberta), MBA (Finance, University of Toronto), holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He was an investment portfolio manager; owned his own investment counselling firm; published an investment newsletter; founded the professional society now known as CFA Saskatchewan in 1986; and was a director of an investment research operation in India. Since 2016, he has been the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, performing valuation analyses on federal and provincial Crown corporations in Canada, and also written numerous policy analyses. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia with his family.

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