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Short Snappers

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As an antidote to the long, mind-numbing posts of recent days, several bite-sized chunks.....Is Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams like the coolest premier in the country? Rhodes Scholar, lawyer and successful businessman, Williams has about as impressive a resume as any premier in this country. He has sparred with the federal Conservatives and generally created an impression that he doesn't tolerate shite from anyone. This week, however, Williams cut a whole new chapter in his impressive political career when he commented on the cancer screening scandal rocking his province.More than 400 Newfoundlanders received inaccurate breast cancer screening results between 1997 and 2005. A class-action suit is in the works. Williams, who claimed he was talking as a lawyer and not as premier (as if that's possible) suggested that he would like to see the government settle with the affected patients as soon as possible. "My preference is not to see these people put through any further anguish."Hear, hear. By admitting liability and offering to settle fairly with the patients, Williams is showing that political leadership can be an antidote to government bungling. Moreover, he is showing that effective leadership can and should trump corporate liability issues. The trick now for Williams will be to ensure the bureaucracy acts on his comments. It has been the case that offers of compensation by politicians are not always supported by bureaucrats. We wish Mr. Williams luck in this endeavour.***Canada may have had, at one time, a strong hand to play when it came to influencing the direction of democracy building in Afghanistan. Then Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier opened his pie hole and Canada - as Jerry Seinfeld would say - no longer had hand.Bernier’s public denunciation of Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid - he actually told reporters that Khalid should be replaced - is one of the biggest gaffes ever made by a Canadian foreign affairs minister. It was inappropriate, it was ill-timed, it was completely against all logic and experience in the diplomatic world. It was positively Dick Cheneyesque in the magnitude of its stupidity.Canada is a major player in the fight to bring democracy to Kandahar province, and could have quietly pushed Khalid to adopt a more modern approach to governing. Canada could also have used quiet diplomatic pressure on the national Afghan government to keep a tighter leash on Khalid as a condition for continued Canadian involvement in the province. In fact, a discreet campaign seeking to do all these things was underway, until Bernier did his cannonball.I'm not normally supportive of calls for a minister's resignation. I've only seen a handful of incidents in more than 20 years covering politics where a resignation was really warranted. This is one of those times.***While we're talking about ungoverned pie holes, could someone please get a hold of Sea Shepherd Society honcho Paul Watson and tell him to give his head a shake. This week's events, which saw a SSS ship confiscated by the Canadian Coast Guard for allegedly venturing too close to the annual east coast seal hunt, should have been a public relations triumph for the society. The confiscation of the ship, and charging of its crew, could have been a real embarrassment for the federal government, especially since it appears the ship can prove it was outside the protection limit of the hunt when it was boarded. That was before Mr. Watson cracked the pie hole.In response to the death of four seal hunters from Iles de la Madeleine, who died when their disabled boat capsized as it was been towed by a Coast Guard ship, Watson told reporters that while the deaths were a tragedy "the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy." Watson's comments were inappropriate, and have done a disservice to his cause.I love the SSS's spunkiness, and the fact it posted bail for its arrested crew in toonies. I cringed when I heard Watson talking about the deaths of the sealers. I think many other people who might passively support the end of the seal hunt cringed as well.***Finally, the Globe and Mail today published the latest poll results from the Strategic Counsel, which show the Conservatives retreating to 2006 levels with only 36 per cent support, only six points more than the Liberals. It is hard to assess the veracity of poll results these days, given the radically different results that have been published in the past month. Some show statistical ties, while others seem to show the Conservatives in majority territory.But without a consistent trend across several different polls, it's likely safe to conclude the Tories do not have the support to win a majority. Conservatives who are so close to a majority they can taste it should ask, and soon, why that is. Your thoughts about why the Tories seemed stalled in the mid 30s would be most welcome.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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