Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paratroopers defend airborne

Members of the international brotherhood of paratroopers are defending the disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment.

"These guys have heroes dating from World War Two, it's wrong to brand the whole unit for the crimes of a few," retired Staff Sgt. Mike Stocker, a former U.S. Green Beret and president of the Special Forces Association of St. Louis, told QMI Agency. "They were super tight-knit, real tough and real professional. It's unfair, it's as if they have taken their swords, broken them and branded them all. As a paratrooper, I stand behind them."

The Canadian Airborne Regiment was a specialized group of army soldiers selected to jump out of airplanes into hostile territory. The group traces back to the Second World War's First Canadian Parachute Battalion, and the First Special Service Force (FSSF) known as the Black Devils. The American heirs to the Black Devils are the Green Berets.

But the elite Canadian army group was "disbanded in disgrace" by the Liberal government led by former prime minister Jean Chretien in 1995 after Somali teenager Shidane Arone was beaten and killed during a mission in the war-torn country. Several soldiers were court-martialled, and after a controversial hazing video surfaced, the entire regiment was stood down.

The Black Devils was a historic joint-fighting unit between Canada and the United States during the Second World War. The Canadian Airborne Regiment still carried the crossed-arrow and spear-head battle honours of the Black Devils until it was disbanded. Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) and Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) carry them now.

Retired Sgt.-Maj. Gordon Sims, 89, was a Canadian member of the Devils who fought against the Nazis in Italy and France.

"At first, I had felt we had been dishonoured by the Airborne," Sims said.

"But my feelings are tempered now -- it was a couple of radical guys who have tarnished the whole regiment, and should we all be painted with the same brush? No, that's what you had a stockade for."

The last commanding officer of the Canadian regiment, retired Col. Peter G. Kenward, wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize to the airborne soldiers, reinstate the colours and strike "disgrace" from the record. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tory incumbent Mike Wallace cruises to win in Burlington

Mike Wallace blazed past his opponents Monday night, seizing the Burlington riding by a handy margin.

With more than three quarters of the poles counted, the Conservative incumbent had 54 per cent of the vote. Liberal challenger Alyssa Brierley had 23 per cent and NDP candidate David Laird sat at 19 per cent.

“I’m very proud to be Conservative in our great country of Canada,” an elated Wallace said from a podium in his Burlington headquarters to applause, hoots and whistles from an excited crowd. “It is our party and our leader that is here for Canada and I’m here for Burlington.”

Wallace led in every poll, followed closely by Laird and Brierley, who were neck and neck throughout the race.

Laird, a child protection worker with the Children’s Aid Society, glowed from sweat and excitement before the polls closed, pumped to receive the results in what was sure to become his most victorious election yet. With a majority of the polls in, he had 19 per cent of the vote.

Brierley, a lawyer, is a Phd candidate and newcomer on the political scene.

Her supporters gathered across town at a Jack Astors restaurant dotted with red and white balloons.

Wallace’s campaign manager had jokingly promised him a “15,000 vote spread” over the runner-up, following the math of previous wins: In 2008, he took the riding by 10,000 votes; in the race previous by a mere 2,500. In 2004, he lost by a similar margin.

And while he didn’t quite make that goal, the voters did not disappoint.

Wallace, who is most proud of his efforts to clean up toxic mud in Hamilton Harbour.

In the campaign, Brierley and Laird stressed that Burlington, a bedroom community in transition as immigrants and young families seek affordable housing, is a riding hungry for change.

Laird said constituents were concerned about Wallace’s voting record when it came to international issues. Brierley said voters were looking for someone “fresh, new, energetic” and “willing to hustle to get the job done.