The return of the Red Tories

The return of the Red ToriesBack in September 2012, I wrote a column suggesting that Jean Charest’s recent political retirement wasn’t the end of the story. A man in his mid-50s who’d spent almost his entire adult life in politics would find it difficult to irrevocably wash his hands of the whole business. Now, on the brink of his apparently…

The Stuarts, a dynasty brought down by religion

In addition to displaying the Stuart propensity for absolutism, James II publicly converted to Catholicism. The die was cast

The Stuarts, a dynasty brought down by religionOf the world’s failed causes, one of the most enduring is the romantic tale of the House of Stuart. Who hasn’t heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his tragic-heroic attempt to recover the three crowns lost by his grandfather? Let’s back up a bit. The Stuarts were originally French, having crossed over from Brittany in…

The American melodrama heads for home

A Canadian guide to keeping close watch on the 2020 U.S. presidential election

The American melodrama heads for homeAs we roll into 2020, aficionados of American politics will be in their element. Beginning with the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus and the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary, there’ll be a continuous series of events leading up to the Nov. 3 finale, the day of the presidential election. And most Canadians will fervently hope –…

A child’s Christmas Eve in 1950 Dublin

One of my earliest Christmas memories was going to see Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys", in The Gay Ranchero in a Dublin cinema

A child’s Christmas Eve in 1950 DublinAs you get older, one of the things that Christmas evokes is a sense of remembering. And for me, one the earliest such memories relates to Christmas Eve 1950. It was the first time I ever went to the cinema. Or, as Dubliners would have said, the pictures. I was six years-old at the time…

Boris Johnson is a consequential politician

Prime ministers often come and go without making a material difference. For better or worse, Johnson looks like an exception

Boris Johnson is a consequential politicianBoris Johnson has been called many uncomplimentary things, charlatan and clown being among the milder epithets. Even those sympathetic to his current agenda are liable to use terms like “unprincipled opportunist.” However, another descriptor is becoming increasingly apt. Johnson is shaping up to be a consequential politician, defined as one who makes a difference. A…

Christmas songs and the power of nostalgia

Bing Crosby's version of White Christmas is recognized as the best-selling single record ever

Christmas songs and the power of nostalgiaIt’s surely a personal quirk, but I must confess that the relatively modern Christmas songs, like All I Want for Christmas Is You and Fairytale of New York leave me cold. Yes, I know they’re critically acclaimed and immensely popular, not to mention enormous money-spinners. However, they don’t tickle my fancy at all. Perhaps it’s a…

The rise and fall of Spiro Agnew

The Nixon administration vice-president made two critical mistakes: he took on the media and he got caught taking kickbacks

The rise and fall of Spiro AgnewSpiro Agnew – the 39th vice-president of the United States – was born in 1918 to a Greek immigrant father and a native-born American mother. In keeping with the integrationist pattern of the era, his father changed the Anagnostopoulos surname to Agnew. It was important to fit in and get along. Agnew’s early life was…

The enduring romance of the highwayman

Brave, dashing and manly, these social bandits have lofty status. But some, like Dick Turpin, fall far short of the glowing stereotype

The enduring romance of the highwaymanIf memory serves, my first encounter with the concept of a highwayman came circa 1952 thanks to the weekly Sun comic book. One of its regular characters was Dick Turpin, a highwayman who embarked on a series of adventures with his female sidekick Moll Moonlight. In addition to robbing the rich to help the poor,…

The first rock ’n’ roll Christmas

That a guy nicknamed Elvis the Pelvis had tackled sacred songs was offensive and sacrilegious to many. But it was perfect marketing

The first rock ’n’ roll ChristmasTeenagers in the 1950s couldn’t escape the music of their parents. Despite radio’s new-fangled Top 40 and the attendant infiltration of rock ’n’ roll, the sounds of the past were all around. This was particularly the case for Christmas songs. But things began to change in late October 1957, thanks to Elvis Presley announcing the…

How healthy is our health-care system?

A recent report compares care across eight developed countries, including Canada. The results are edifying

How healthy is our health-care system?The Manhattan Institute – an American free-market think-tank – recently published a comparison of health care across eight developed countries. Looking at Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States, the analysis provides food for thought. Here are my takeaways. Role of government Governments in all eight countries are…

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?

A separate Scotland and a unified Ireland would certainly face new challenges. But life might be easier for the English

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?If Brexit happens and has the unintended consequence of facilitating Scottish independence and Irish unification (picking up where last week’s column left off), what would that mean for various groups? For Scottish unionists, leaving the United Kingdom would certainly be a major psychological wrench. Unlike, say, the former states of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – both…

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequences

How about Scottish independence and Irish unification, just to start the conversation?

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequencesLet’s do a thought experiment. We’ll begin by making two speculative stipulations. First, assume that Boris Johnson comes out of the United Kingdom’s Dec. 12 general election with a comfortable Conservative majority. Thus empowered, he pushes his new European Union withdrawal agreement through parliament without any material amendments and the U.K. then leaves the EU…

Pack up you troubles in your old kit-bag

Our perspective in marking Remembrance Day is definitely at odds with views of the day, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices weren't worthy

As rhetorical formulations go, ”the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” packs a formidable punch. Signifying the coming into effect of the armistice that ended the First World War, the words have a striking resonance: eliciting solemnity, dignity and the sense of something very important. Much more so than VE Day or…

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?

It took far more than our efforts during the Great War to nudge Canada out of its subordinate role in the British Empire

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?If you turn left upon entering the main gate of Toronto’s St. James Cemetery, you’ll soon come to a tall, imposing Celtic cross made of stone and inscribed with the family name Hagarty. There are three people buried there, but pride of place is given to someone whose earthly remains repose thousands of miles away…

Brexit’s endgame finally beckons

If Boris Johnson is to get his agreement passed, he needs to change parliament. The Dec. 12 general election provides the opportunity

Brexit’s endgame finally beckonsMy Aug. 1 column noted the significance of Boris Johnson becoming United Kingdom prime minister. Given his key cabinet and staff appointments, he was clearly going to force Brexit resolution in a way that his predecessor, Theresa May, was either unable or unwilling to do. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Both May and her…
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