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About Conrad Black's return: Canadians deserve honest answers

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Conrad Black, in happier (for him) times

Let's mark this international day of the worker by having a grown-up discussion about the readmission to Canada of Conrad Black, the former Canadian citizen and newspaper tycoon, now that he is about to be released from prison in the United States.

We can do this without saying much at all about Lord Black, complimentary or otherwise, other than to acknowledge that he is no longer a citizen of this country and that he was convicted of a criminal offence in a neighbouring democracy with a properly functioning judicial system.

As a result of a ruling of the Canadian Supreme Court, as the Globe and Mail reported yesterday morning, Lord Black cannot be admitted to this country "without the special permission of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration."

According to the Globe, "a government official said Monday that the court wasn't referring specifically to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and that it will be bureaucrats in his department who will decide whether Lord Black gets a dispensation." (Emphasis added.)

But notwithstanding the Globe's servile verbiage, at last report Kenney was in fact the Minister of Immigration of Canada. So, since Lord Black is a controversial figure who very publicly, and some of us would say quite insultingly, renounced his Canadian citizenship long before his legal troubles began, and whose contributions to this country's public life are furthermore subject to widely divergent perceptions, Kenney really can't wriggle off the hook by blaming his decision on faceless officials in his employ.

No, for good or ill, whether or not he decides to allow Lord Black to return to Canada, and whether or not all Canadians approve of his decision, the Chief Gatekeeper and Censor of Canada who banned George Galloway from our shores and who has actively road-blocked the return of the child soldier Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has done nothing to warrant criminal charges in this country, is going to have to wear this decision himself.

The newspaper also quoted the Canada Border Services Agency as stating most foreigners with criminal convictions are inadmissible to enter and remain in Canada, and that people with "previous criminality" normally must wait five years after the completion of their sentence before applying for permanent residency in Canada.

So it would seem clear from this that if Kenney decides to readmit Lord Black, he will be stretching and bending the rules to accommodate him.

And if Kenney is prepared to do that, assuming that he is an honourable public servant, the only conclusion available to us would be that he had determined that readmitting Lord Black to Canada is in the national interest.

Given this, it is very clear that whatever Kenney decides to do, he owes it to Canadians to explain clearly the reasoning and justification for his decision.

It is said here that this is a necessary precondition to the readmission of Lord Black to Canada. Moreover, since the man apparently has a few supporters here, a refusal to do so probably deserves an explanation too.

If Kenney refuses to come clean about his reasoning and Lord Black is permitted to return to our shores without explanation, Canadians will be left with no alternative but to conclude that under our so-called Conservative government there is one law for the rich and well connected and another for the rest of us.

Lord Black's U.S. prison term is scheduled to end on Saturday, but he expected to be able to leave prison on Friday. We can be confident that he will attempt to return to his native land, which he once took pains to ensure was not also his home, as soon as possible thereafter.

Stephen Carter departs Alberta Premier Alison Redford's office

Stephen Carter, for a time Alberta Premier Alison Redford's chief of staff and more recently her campaign manager, has departed from her service, the Premier's Office announced in a news release yesterday.

Whether or not Carter's recent campaign was a glowing success or, as was suggested here yesterday, "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life," will probably be forever controversial. However, it ended well from both the premier's and Carter's perspective, so it is likely a case of "no harm, no foul."

It is hard to imagine that Carter will have much difficulty finding politicians willing to pay him handsomely to assist with their campaigns in light of the way this story ended on April 23.

Redford has named Calgary lawyer Farouk Adatia, the former Chief Financial Officer of her leadership campaign, as her chief of staff.

Adatia is proof that you can't keep a good man down, at least if he's a Conservative in Alberta that’s a friend of the premier.

Before the last election, Adatia tried for the PC nomination in Calgary-Hawkwood, but was unsuccessful. Then it was rumoured he was about to be appointed as Tory candidate in Calgary-West after the first nomination there was controversially overturned by the party. When that didn't happen, he was appointed as Conservative candidate in Calgary Shaw.

Alas, on election night he was defeated in that riding by the Wildrose Party's candidate.

Now, it would seem, God's in his heaven, Adatia's in the premier’s office and all's right with the world!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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