Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Another wrong turn for the Conservatives

Part of the problem for the Conservatives as they try to gain acceptance as a national party has been the perception that they have a right-wing social conservative agenda that is out of step with where the majority of Canadians stand. The dropping of the word "Progressive" from the party name did not help from the start. And the fact that a number of Christian activists are trying and succeeding in winning nomination battles in ridings in anticipation of the next federal election does not help this image and will only reinforce this perception.

John Reynolds is quoted in the Globe article, above, as saying essentially that, hey, that's democracy folks. We don't believe in an appointment process. We have riding battles and if members in a riding don't like it, they should sign up enough members to prevent a one-issue candidate from winning. I think that's a problem for the Conservatives. They're leaving their nominations wide open to activists that could really harm the party's efforts to reach out. I agree with Reynolds' democratic sentiments to a point but it can really create problems for a political party. Any well-organized group could target a number of ridings and put in place some really questionable candidates. If they leave themselves open to this kind of manipulation, they are shooting themselves in the foot once again. You'd think they'd be especially vigilant with their choice of candidates, knowing the perception problems they have had.

Why not have some balance in the process and allow for the riding association executive or the national executive to have some input to ensure the candidate is acceptable to the party? If the democratic choice is acceptable to the national party, then fine, there would be no need to change it. I would imagine that in the majority of ridings, there would be no issue about the choice of candidate. But if there are a few questionable choices, then do something about it. I guess the criticism is that interference in local associations by the national party is too top-down and antithetical to the "grass roots" philosophy of the party. Maybe, yes, but isn't it a small price to pay at this stage of a party's development? Once you can attract a broader variety of quality candidates there might be no need for such interference.

We shall see how this plays out. But if the polls are any indication, this altruistic practice at the riding level may come back to bite the Conservatives once again.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The John Bolton nomination

For a good example of what is missing in the U.S. these days and what they really could use a bit more of, see U.S. Senator George Voinovich's statement to the Senate of May 25th on the Bolton nomination (starting at page S5892 of the May 25th Daily digest). A Senate Republican really makes it clear that Colin Powell and over 100 members of the diplomatic corps object to this nomination, that the guy has a real temperament problem and that countries around the world are shaking their heads in disbelief at this nominee. He reiterates over and over in his statement that the U.S. needs to step up their public diplomacy. You can almost hear the desperation in his voice as you read through this statement as he likely knows that the majority of Republicans will vote in lockstep to support "the President's nominee," likely out of fear of the wrath of the White House, instead of voting their consciences. A few senators have stated that if there were an anonymous vote, Bolton would never be confirmed. Says something quite sad about the health of the American democracy. It is broken.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Et tu, New York Times?

Today's New York Times has a piece, quite prominently displayed on their website, taking the typically American slant of late, questioning Canada's alleged moral superiority among the countries of the world...(requires registration, which is free and well worth it if you have yet to sign up).

The article focusses on such immediate matters as the sponsorship scandal and the goings on in Ottawa - Stronach's defection is mentioned, although not by naming names, curious considering her renown - but also over some latent long-simmering environmental problems. Namely, greenhouse gas emissions and our shameful #1 ranking by the OECD as the top producing nuclear waste member. Apparently we are also the 4th ranked per capita emitter of carbon dioxide (not surprising), but behind the U.S., Australia and that widely known polluter, Luxembourg (yes, Luxembourg, I know, WTF?).

The article also refers to the emerging debate over what exactly Canada's identity is, a topic discussed last week/weekend on the Canada e-blogs website. Indeed the article's title itself seems to be stirring up this debate, "Was Canada Just Too Good to Be True?"...

Interesting to see the prominence accorded to the article, but little more than a poke in our eye from the neighbour down south.

Friday, May 20, 2005

'95 referendum shenanigans

I had a friend wait for hours to vote in Montreal in the '95 referendum. Wonder if it had anything to do with this? Allegations like these reinforce the need for not only a clear question if there's ever a 3rd separation referendum but a "clear" majority result as well...that is, without any hijinks like this.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

No election...for now

Miscellaneous thoughts on the non-confidence vote:

The separatist spectre in Quebec has greatly affected Harper & the Conservatives in the past few weeks. As the polls have come out showing a surge of support for separatism, his alliance with the Bloc to defeat the national government became a significant liability. Stronach recognized this and refused to go along. While the Conservatives may have viewed their pairing up with the Bloc as an alliance only as a technicality and out of necessity to defeat the government, they have been wilfully blind to the effects of their teaming up with the Bloc. The Bloc's desire to defeat the government in order to boost the separatist cause cannot be ignored, no matter that the Conservatives say that it is the Liberals fault, it is a result of adscam, etc. That doesn't matter. What matters is the reality of the separatist threat as it is occurring and re-building right now and sometimes a party has to do the right thing for the country rather than their own ambitions. The federalist options in Quebec are weakened right now and it would be a terrible result if an election were to give the Bloc a stranglehold on Quebec seats.

Quite a dramatic moment when Cadman stood up. A "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" moment. A moment of purity amidst weeks of negativity and cynicism. It looks like he did the right thing. The last few weeks have made people weary about politics and politicians in particular and so he has saved everyone from the election the population doesn't want. And given people a moment of inspiration.

Stronach standing up with the government seemed to be fitting, like she should have been there all along.

Now off to our summer preoccupations, what will we do without the daily shenanigans to write about?

Waiting for the budget votes....

Like all Canadians, I am eagerly anticipating the votes this afternoon. It looks at this point that there won't be an election and I am in favour of that at this time, in spite of how much fun it might be to see Martin & Harper duke it out over the next month or so. But, we are likely to be spared that match right now only to have it occur in the winter or whenever the Gomery commission reports. Will this be a better scenario for the country? If it can hold the rising tide of separatism and allow for the federal government to take some constructive steps to deal with the adscam corruption then it just might be worth it. Let's hope they use the time constructively. Like, maybe we could start with someone in Intergovernmental Affairs picking up the phone to call Stephane Dion and pick his brain on this...?!?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Outrageous

This has got to stop. Check out the quote by Alberta MLA Tony Abbott.

Stephen Harper, the writing is on the wall

Belinda Stronach's move today says many things about Stephen Harper.

First, it says that he cannot hold his caucus together and therefore his skills as a leader are in question. Belinda Stronach telegraphed her discontent with the Conservative strategy to defeat the budget a few weeks ago. What did Harper do as a result? Nothing? Or just not enough? Can you imagine this happening to Brian Mulroney or Jean Chretien? I don't think so. Some may think this unfair, that there was nothing he could have done, etc. Maybe that's true. But I think that the circumstances say something about Harper's leadership skills. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with her as a former rival. But she had left the door open to a resolution by making her discontent public. This should have forced him to do whatever reckoning he had to do in order to solve that situation. Now, she is gone and whatever efforts were made to keep her there were a failure...and so this reflects upon him.

Now there are rumblings about two Conservatives from Newfoundland who may also vote for the budget on Thursday under tremendous local pressure to support the Atlantic accord. Belinda's move to the Liberals may provide them with the political cover to vote in support of the budget as their votes may now not be crucial, given the new numbers. How will such further defection reflect upon Harper?

Secondly, this says something about the direction that Harper is taking the party. And I see it in this quote: "I told my wife only a few days ago that I thought it had become obvious to Belinda that her leadership ambitions would not be reached in this party regardless of whether or not we won the next election. It will be interesting to watch her progress in the Liberal party."

What is he saying here? I hope that better folks than me try to decipher this statement. So, she would not be able to succeed as a leader within the Conservative party according to Harper. Let's say there was an election and he eeked out a minority win. OK, then Harper would stay on for the foreseeable future. But if he lost a June election once again to a Liberal minority, wouldn't he have to consider resigning? I guess he's saying he wouldn't. But do his comments mean on a longer term basis that people like Belinda Stronach could not become leader due to their political views? This is the likely import of his statement to me. That his party has no plans to reach out beyond its current constituency to grow in their positions on social issues such as gay marriage. That the western base of the party is too strong for someone like Stronach to overcome in the next few years.

And if that is the case, then the Conservatives will not be a truly national party for the foreseeable future.

Bravo to Belinda Stronach

This past week, I wrote the following about Belinda Stronach:

I'm still looking forward to the moment where one can attribute the political smarts directly to her, an authentic moment that says she really deserves the attention being paid to her.
Well, kudos to her, she did it. Read her statement today. She stood up, made a bold move and has changed the political landscape for the foreseeable future, on so many levels. I don't know where to start with this but will try to sort it all out in coming posts.

I also posed a question the other day, "where have all the leaders gone?", wondering whether there was anyone who might step up out of the current morass and actually cut through all of the fog to speak about what is really important in this country. And finally someone did it. Not one of the leaders but someone who has now demonstrated leadership. And lo and behold, that person was Belinda Stronach.

Good for her, I applaud this move heartily.

Mr. Parizeau, you can climb back under your rock for the time being

Jacques Parizeau reappeared on Monday to remind us all of the stakes the current Parliament, as of Monday anyway, was playing with...here he is giving an interview to CTV news, saying the following:

"They know very well the writing is on the wall," he said, also dismissing the federal Clarity Act which demands a clear referendum question as a prerequisite to negotiating terms of separation.
"Can you imagine feds saying we don't like your answers," Parizeau implored, calling such suggestions a "political stunt."
"It's not serious."

Oh, I'm afraid it is serious Jacques. Nice. Bullying your way back on to the scene to threaten the rest of us who have the gall to call out such idiocy. Let's be clear...whatever response a future government of Canada takes in the face of a Quebec referendum question on separation will not be a matter of politics, it will be a matter of constitutional law. Remember that Jacques, the Constitution? Yes, the Clarity Act is a law, and it could be changed, but it is also based on the considered judgment of the Supreme Court in the Secession Reference which if you recall, was actually praised at the time by one Lucien Bouchard. The principles outlined in that opinion embody a reasoned view of the federation that balances the need to respect the rule of law, i.e., the Constitution, and democratic principles. So a referendum alone is not a trump card and never will be. And yes, the federal government will be perfectly entitled to say "we don't like your answers" if the question is once again, for the 3rd time, a charade suggesting an "association" with Canada. Or if a razor thin majority with a questionable percentage of the voting population supports it. Or if the shenanigans occur once again in Montreal where federalists are kept in line for hours on end.

Oh, and thanks for showing up on the eve of the budget vote, you may have actually pushed Belinda Stronach over the edge to joining the Liberals...:)!!!

With friends like these...

More typical McGuinty antics...

The Newsweek brouhaha

Why I love Keith Olbermann.

Rathergate redux? Not this time, some in the media (and the viewing and thinking public) aren't so gullible anymore.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"My name is Stephen Harper": Oh, really? I didn't know that

I know that the last person the Conservatives are likely to take advice from is Warren Kinsella, but he has a point with his recasting of Harper's election plea in a mock ad, here.

But please, if there are any Conservatives out there writing ad scripts, let's not follow Kinsella's advice in one regard...do we really need to keep hearing this guy telling us his name? Geez!!! He's been leader of the opposition for almost a year now and has already used this ad formula in the last election. Then it was understandable, first national campaign and all, but shouldn't we know him by now? Or is it just the same old machismo technique that the ad world/political consultants must inflict upon us that is supposed to have us all thinking, oh, this guy really means what he's saying if he's willing to put his name on the line...?!? The "honourable" guy and all, with the music soaring as he tries hopelessly, with that accountant persona, to evoke some sort of emotion from us about what he believes in... So please spare us the name telling and come up with something new and creative in the script as I'm not sure I can take listening to 30+ days of "My name is Stephen Harper" ads!

"God bless Canada"?

And another thing, to continue with the pile on...Why does Stephen Harper end most of his speeches with "God bless Canada"? Martin doesn't do this. I didn't check Layton's speeches, but it's pretty likely he doesn't either. Does this say anything about Harper? Is it his Canadianization of the "God bless America" that most American politicians use, notably W, at the end of all of their speeches? If so, I really wish he wouldn't. We don't need more religion in our politics like the efforts down south to merge church and state...so please, Mr. Harper, let's just leave it be.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Stronach campaign

Pretty favourable press for Belinda Stronach here. They really make it sound like she's making some shrewd moves in terms of her long term political leadership aspirations. Can't shake the feeling that it all seems a bit choreographed though, no doubt by all the advisers she is able to retain. I'm still looking forward to the moment where one can attribute the political smarts directly to her, an authentic moment that says she really deserves the attention being paid to her.

Her positions are pretty much where Canadians are and if the Conservatives were led by someone with her policies (and rid themselves of some of the yahoos), they'd likely be on the verge of a majority government.

Friday, May 06, 2005

More on the PQ's fantasy break-up

Here is some additional information on the PQ separation study released yesterday. Seems that their latest fantasy on separation calculates that Quebec with 23 % of the Canadian population would end up taking on 18% of the Canadian debt. This is a reiteration of past Quebec positions, notably the 18.5% suggested by Quebec's Belanger-Campeau commission in 1992. The respective responsibility for the debt would clearly be controversial given the disparity between what the rest of Canada would say is Quebec's share, likely @23% (but subject to negotiation) and the 18% Quebec claims is appropriate. Our current national debt is in the neighbourhood of $500 billion and 23% of that figure represents approximately $115 billion. 18% represents only 90 billion leaving a difference of $25 billion. Quebecers would have to consider the reasonableness of this position and how their partners in confederation would likely react. And I'm sure that such realities would be clearly presented by the government of Canada should the need ever arise in the future. For now, let's remind the PQ that their studies and actions will not go unchallenged ... and here's hoping the feds get on the case.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Calling Captain Canada whoever you are

Nice to see that there is a consideration of liabilities that would have to be negotiated and recognition that this will affect the future financial condition of Quebec, as mentioned here:
Parmi les postulats qu'une telle étude doit poser, il y a le partage de la dette et de l'actif. Les auteurs ont procédé à un bilan pro forma de l'administration publique fédérale aux fins de succession des deux États. Ce bilan constitue le point de départ de la méthode utilisée pour ce partage. Les auteurs reconnaissent d'emblée qu'il s'agit d'un élément délicat. «L'état des finances publiques d'un Québec souverain est influencé par l'ampleur de la part des actifs et de la part des dettes du gouvernement du Canada dont il héritera», écrivent-ils.
It does appear that there is a bit of hedging here though, a recognition that Quebec's finances will be contingent on these negotiations, and the outcome of such discussions would be uncertain to say the least. The rosy picture portrayed of a future financially stable province of Quebec should be considered in detail by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs' office and met with an equally forceful response.
Thanks to Paul Wells for highlighting the lackadaisical approach of the current minister and the need for action.

I can think of one issue that might warrant addressing. For example, would Quebec be using the Canadian dollar post separation or their own currency? Are they assuming they would be permitted to adopt the Canadian currency? This is not a foregone conclusion and would also significantly impact the finances of a future Quebec.

We eagerly await the response of the government of Canada.


Memo to the PQ: don't forget your share of the debt

Wonder whether this new fantasy accounts for debt negotiations between Quebec and the rest of Canada? If, and that's a big if, negotiations were ever entered into between Quebec and the rest of Canada (and that means, not just the federal government, but all of the provinces as well), the "division of assets and liabilities" among other things such as the borders, rights of aboriginal peoples, etc. are all required to be addressed before any amendment to permit "sovereignty" would take place. Will have to take a look at this plan. But I'm sure they'll have fairly treated this issue, right?

Monday, May 02, 2005

TV Review: the "Runaway Bride" show

I saw a new TV mini-series this weekend, anyone catch it? It was called the "Runaway Bride" starring a young Julia Rogers wannabe. Luckily, it was on all the networks, CNN, MSNBC and especially Fox. Fox seemed to be running this show a lot on the weekend. I particularly enjoyed the part where Greta Van Susteren was outside the home of the runaway bride's fiance once he got news that his bride was OK...well, kind of OK... she had been kidnapped by a nasty packing Hispanic and his caucasian sidekick (at least at that point in the show we were pretty sure she had been kidnapped, gosh) and Greta was all like, "How did you hear the good news?" to all of the 14 groomsmen and 14 bridesmaids who came running to be on TV and especially just to be on Greta's show at 4 a.m. under her media tent. The show was like sooooo good at that point. I mean, why would anyone run away from a family like this?

I never would have guessed that they would throw in that surprise ending though. Gee, I sure didn't see that coming. But I bet the ratings were smashing! Can't wait for the next mini-series!