Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Winners And Losers

In the minority on the political ramifications of the whole postal dispute/filibuster, I argued the Liberals didn't "lose", and the NDP weren't the big winners most assumed. Not a question of merit argument, but simple positioning on the issue, while the NDP grabbed the headlines, that doesn't translate to political victory, at least not in this case. Today, I see a poll which tends to support my perspective, rather than Liberals being irrelevant, perhaps wise to not look extremist in tone, all the NDP did is reinforce their big labour moniker. As was clear, Harper is the only winnner in this dispute optics wise, there was nothing to be gained for the Liberals, letting the NDP corner themselves fine politically:
Pollster David Coletto says he's rarely seen public opinion line up so strongly with a decision by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"When an issue hits people in how they live their lives, and whether they can travel, or whether they pay their bills or get their magazines in the mail, you get a reaction like this," said Coletto.

What is fascinating, even the NDP supporters are conflicted:
NDP led the filibuster in the House of Commons against the Canada Post back-to-work bill, only 44% of New Democrat voters said they opposed the bill, while 43% supported it.

A review of the pdf shows regionally, only in Quebec can the NDP cling to any upside, elsewhere well offside with public mood. The polls also shows union households split over back to work, 49% support, only 40% against. In vote rich Ontario, support is highest in the country at 68%.

My read of this whole debate never saw this great triumph of the NDP, despite pundit claims and supporter angst. Nobody was watching the filibuster, nobody cares about the great NDP caucus morale as new MP's can actually string together two sentences, nobody cares about PROCESS. This poll supports that assertion, which shows once again the disconnect between those of us engaged on issues and the more general mood, based on tertiary focus. Personally, I supported the NDP position and thought the Liberals struck a good balance. However, that belief is truly what's "irrelevant" to the wider picture, in terms of politics, the one sided NDP position wasn't wise, it got attention, but not necessarily attractive. Moving forward, I'll share outrage if the Liberals don't look engaged, relevant, loud and attention grabbing. That said, this wasn't the issue to throw up your hands and say "where were the Liberals?", at least not in a strategic sense, wherein one is weighing political fallout.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


My running thesis is that Fox News North only survives if it gets enough attention from its detractors. Left alone, the conservative circle jerk doesn't have the JAM or the intellectual appeal to become a ratings success. However, through controversy and fascination from our side of the political spectrum, SunTV is provided the oxygen it desperately needs. Judging from the running commentary I've seen, I'd be willing to wager that any breakdown of SunTV ratings would show an almost curious split in political persuasion.

My only exposure to SunTV is what I read on social media and/or mainstream stories. Today, I see on National Newswatch this item that the CBSC has been flooded with complaints about some interview that was particularly offensive. This worries me in one sense, because flooded translates to viewers, outrage is inconsequential, what has relevance is ad revenue and all that matters is you're watching, approvingly or not. See, I don't think SunTV cares if you make criticize it, it only cares that you pay attention, tsk tsk equates to CHA CHING.

When Fox News North was first floated, I spent a lot of time watching Kory Teneycke flame out, then resisting in my own small way through various minor avenues. However, once it became reality, the dye cast, I've chose to ignore the network, or at least only read or hear via secondary sources. I have a running tally of how many minutes of SunTV I've watched directly since it hit the airwaves. This number isn't distorted or dishonest, this is the "I kid you not" accurate calculation:

If my fellow progressives, centrists, leftists followed suit, I remain convinced people wouldn't have to complain to the CBSC or fret about the latest outrage, we would grin widely when the plug gets pulled. Big picture, rather than rail, bail.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Anatomy Of A Bad Ad

The theme is a solid one, but the execution is abysmal. The Ontario PC "Taxman" ad is your cookie cutter attack ad, ending with the always original "change" plea:

The ad paints McGuinty as a tax addict, and to prove the point gives five examples, BOOM. Trouble is, or at least for me, to make the laundry list, the ad is forced to repeat the HST twice and the last bit of evidence is some future tax we just don't know about yet. Rather than make a strong argument, the repetition detracts: everyone knows about the HST, trying to make one tax look like two just leaves the viewer suspicious of your thrust. Further, ending with no concrete tax but some murky fear mongering results in your WHAM BAM list reduced to part fiction, part repetition. Surely, if McGuinty is really the TAXMAN, one shouldn't be reduced to trickery to fill a page and make a point. All I see is a would be strong argument watered down to look like your typical dishonest ad, hardly a triumph. Attack ads work, this one could have worked much better.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


It's interesting to watch everyone in Ottawa recalibrate the political landscape in the wake of the last federal election. Obviously, things have changed dramatically, so an adjustment is warranted, in terms of which party gets focus, the coverage pecking order, conversations about relative "irrelevance". Keeping it real, there is simply no way around the "decimated Liberals" narrative, that's what happened and the consequences are sobering.

However, within this new reality, I'm now sensing an over reach, wherein people have exaggerated the narrative. The Liberals are not "dead", the Liberals are not "irrelevant", at least not yet. If you want to argue such, then perhaps a history lesson is in order. Were the NDP dead after the 2008 election, where they received LESS popular vote than the 2011 Liberals? Were the NDP "irrelevant" when they were the FOURTH party in Parliament, farther down the pecking order? Seems a bit of relativist distortion, rather than a true recognition of Parliamentary makeup. Again, by no means trying to elevate the Liberals, it's a dire position, but I'm also sensing a bit of over compensation now, which is subjective punditry.

I can recall MANY times that Layton would get the soundbite over Ignatieff or Dion in the newscasts. I never had a problem with this coverage, because it was more to do with who had the effective line, rather than simply a concrete hierarchy based on seats. That said, this new Ottawa seems to be consumed with ensuring that the 2011 results are solely reflective. I'm sure the NDP braintrust is pressing hard to ensure the party gets coverage they now legitimately demand. The spin game might help explain this disturbing "irrelevant" characterization.

The Liberals are the third party in Parliament. The Liberals are, in many ways, what the NDP used to be in terms of makeup (again go look at 2008, the seat totals are similar as well). Now, I don't recall media types positing that the NDP should be ignored, even though they actually had a lower fourth place status. So, in the interest of fair coverage, balance and intellectual honestly, can we all just dispense with this irresponsible over compensation? Incorporate the new realities, but don't swing so wildly that you forget historical context and 3 million of us that voted for the dead people.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Obstruction Is Supreme

In what looks to be the closing chapter on the Afghan detainee file, the final judgement suggests that obstruction works, stonewalling is ultimately rewarded and former notions of Parliamentary supremacy were temporary at best. I don't want to say "told you so", but the Harper Conservatives have acted as predicted, delayed as much as possible, and subsequently stopped any investigation in it's tracks as soon as the former Parliament mandate ran out.

It was one year ago that his "solution" was crafted, after endless prior delays and aversions. People will note, a wasted summer of further delay, followed by little information through the fall and winter, not a single document seen prior to the election. And, with this vote, the mandate as agreed upon rendered mute, the new Parliament would have to recommit to continue the work, an almost impossible tenet, given the NDP were never on board in the first place. In other words, the government delayed inspection on multiple fronts (as detailed in this excellent column, then when finally cornered by the Speaker, engaged in running out the clock, knowing that Parliament wasn't supreme, just this edition, all bets off after absolution.

Here we sit, 10% of the documents available, the rest seemingly forever lost to transparency, a combination of security issues, cabinet confidence and incomplete process. The panel itself has weighed in, stating the Conservatives have stopped the process mid stream, they were still reviewing, their job incomplete. Think about that fact for a second, this government has short circuited an on going process, agreed upon and ultimately dictated by the Speaker, with little practical recourse available. The government knows the public is tired of the issue, Baird runs to the cameras, declares the issue settled and that's pretty much that. A couple of outraged columns and empty rhetoric doesn't change the reality, the government had the mechanism available to end the process, majority or not when you extrapolate, and they have.

Turns out obstruction was really supreme and sadly in the end, hardly anyone really noticed or cared to for that matter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Canadians seem to be unaware, but with each successive isolating position on the world stage, this Conservative government is destroying our international reputation. Oh sure, if you narrow your gaze to mere conversations about banking systems, Canada shines brightly, but in totality the perceptions reveal more an emerging pariah than poster child.

The latest "outrageous" stance by the Conservatives again projects Canada as a soulless power, wherein only economic benefit is calculated, further ethical considerations an irritant to greed. To be fair, the past Liberal government wasn't exactly stellar on the asbestos file, but this crew has taken denial and obstruction to an entirely new level of embarrassment:

Canada told the world Wednesday it opposes placing limits on the export of chrysotile asbestos - a "bombshell" expected to derail international efforts to list the mineral as hazardous.

The head of the Canadian delegation at a United Nations summit in Geneva made the statement late Wednesday after a consensus was emerging to label the known carcinogen mined in Quebec as hazardous"

What's even more dubious, our newly minted Natural Resources Minister stated if a consensus emerged, we would go along with the initiative. However, once we could no longer hide behind our biggest importer India and the Ukraine, Canada was smoked out and stood with a motley crew of outlier nations. Canada is now basically alone, another shameful performance that has left other nations shaking their heads at our behaviour.

Harper may try to spin Canadians that we are a rising power on the world stage, our stature never higher. But, when you start to add up the relevant issues, listen to the feedback of diplomats and foreign press reports, Canada looks like an international obstacle that has one singular focus: ensuring nothing gets in the way of it's ambitions or direct self interest. Once a leader, a country that other nations looked to as a bit of a moral compass, with each successive "outrage" Harper is dismantling that image, replaced with an almost mulitnational corporation feel. CanaINC, an amoral conglomerate singularly focused on profits and expansion, devoid of social conscience and moral imperatives. We might have the banks, but our reputation is being robbed as we speak.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kill It

Apparently, if Harper's Senate reform package fails he is prepared to abolish the red chamber altogether. It remains to be seen is Harper is just posturing to apply pressure, or if he would take the dramatic step, but killing this persistent eyesore seems the best route.

Am I the only one that is sick and tired of the constant fixation with the Senate? Surely I'm not alone in realizing that Harper's reforms won't end the debate, in fact they further institutionalize inequalities, screwing the West, just as its influence is growing within the federation. Harper's proposal is almost nonsensical when you think about, it's window dressing that is more problematic than ultimate solution. The idea of electing Senators, another layer of legitimate political wrangling, in a country like Canada's regionalism, it's a recipe for more acrimony.

The idea of abolishing the Senate has fairly widespread support, key provinces are on board, amending the Constitution is doable and/or a referendum appropriate. Whenever you mention the Constitution in Canada people immediately go to Defcon 5, but if any adjustment is FOREVER out of bounds, one wonders if this is really a country anyways. Provinces can operate with a single chamber, surely Ottawa can survive without the Senate.

The idea of a need for "sober second thought" seems more a theoretical argument more than real world example. From my perspective, everytime the Senate asserts itself it's immediately trashed, forced to stand down and in the end the will of the House of Commons remains. Taken in totality, the Senate rarely changes things to the extent that justifies its role. Either the opposing party controls the Senate, which leads to conflict, eventual capitulation or the governing party controls the body, which leads to rubber stamp. Even in this latest instance, Senators are reminded of their loyalities, Harper is threatening to abolish, should they resist and show the slightest measure of independent will. It's all an expensive joke, apart from romantic attachment to tradition, behind the scenes work that rarely rises to practical resonance, it's hard to justify anymore. Add on the layer of continual distraction debating the institution, and getting rid of the Senate is more and more compelling.

Unless we are prepared to reform the Senate in a profound way, which fundamentally alters our entire federal government, it will fail to operate properly, representative, responsible and respected. Given that seismic change looks virtually impossible- instead we have window dressing bandaids like the Conservative reform- the logically conclusion seems to point to outright extinction. I'd rather have no Senate than some bastardized hodgepodge that fails to address core problems. I'd prefer one chamber, rather than another body which leads to gridlock and further conflicts, anything but sober second thought. If anything, the abolish side of the argument seems to be gathering momentum, so let's take this opportunity to kill this ongoing saga once and for all. Canada has already wasted far to much energy on a body which has caused nothing but acrimony, resentments and largely disgust amongst the population. Kill it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Vibe In Ottawa?

It's been seven years since we've had a majority government and already you can sense a different energy. The potential danger for the opposition, the Canadian public may also sense the change and prefer it, relative to the past years of constant upheaval and uncertainty. With the parameters clear and firm, there is a changed focus that already seems readily apparent.

In theory a majority should make "debate" less meaningful, since the opposition lacks any practical application, the government does what it pleases. However, while will is easily asserted, I'm already sensing a more substantive debate. For the last seven years almost every issue based conversation has been distracted by election questions. Rather than a debate about the merits of pro and con arguments, everything is viewed with polling and posturing for the next showdown. With the elimination of showdown potential, I would argue we are now in a phase where the actual issues take prominence, the measure is the policy itself. Perhaps I'm seeing things, but I've noted a more substantive debate, less triviality, more examination.

The government appears more relaxed, I suspect the PMO will no longer spend mornings detailing EAP sign location and more on actual issues and legislation development. Minus the continual threat of an election, energy will be directed to longer term pursuits, which may look attractive, relative to the continual band aid approach that the immediacy of a minority may demand.

For the opposition, while they will pounce per usual, I predict less fixation with headline reaction, chasing every mini-scandal and more time putting forth their own views on real issues as a means to differentiate. If this prediction turns out to be true, then it's a net positive for the Canadian public, who clearly want our politicians to focus on issues, not tabloid like pursuits. A minority almost guarantees a continual "gotcha" psychology, because every bend in the road could bring temporary change. Within the relative stability of a majority, every blip in the polls here and there isn't elevated to decisive moment. Scrums and panels are no longer simply an election posturing discussion, but questions about positions and directions. Parties still jockey, but every debate isn't derailed by the same fixations we've seen the last seven years.

I have a sneaking suspicion, for the next while at least, that Canadians are going to look a bit more favorably on their majority reality in Ottawa, as compared to recent past manifestations.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From Here to Eternity

Job one for Liberals at the extraordinary convention was to stop the madness of a quick leadership vote. However, it seems we have gone from one extreme to another with a surprisingly long two year wait. I'm ready to move on with what was decided, but a few observations that I think relevant moving forward.

Almost immediately after the election, we heard of this "overwhelming" support for delaying a leadership race for two years. The trouble with the assertions, it mostly seemed to come from party brass. I have formally questioned that argument, because there appears a serious disconnect from sentiment I've seen and read from grassroots Liberals. In fact, if I were a betting man, I would have put all my chips on a compromised option, between a snap leadership and endless waiting. But, there are other forces at play and I submit yesterday's vote as symptomatic of a reality that needs reform moving forward. Not a sour grapes perspective, but important to know how things go down with the Liberal Party of Canada, and why that isn't necessarily attractive moving forward.

I note Scott speaks to a push from party brass on the two year option, which fits my perception. Again, I'm not going to belabour this point moving forward, but Liberals should understand that once again we have a top down thrust, a structure which handicaps the true reform spirit which is imperative for survival. Yesterday, Rob Silver tweeted after the vote that online sentiment sure wasn't representative of the Liberal vote. One could argue that the online Liberal community is different from the membership in general, but if you look at the demographics, various breakdowns, it appears to me entirely representative of the wider population. The fact we saw such a wide chasm between opinions expressed and ultimate vote, let's look at this with a critical eye, because it's important. This isn't to question the democratic component of this vote, merely the influence and manoeuvring behind the scenes to support certain wants, from powerful quarters.

I think two years is decidedly long, and I predict a stall at some point, Liberals spinning their wheels in wait mode. Why? I don't believe in the leadership messiah thesis, but at a certain point we need a pitchman, we need someone to rally behind and galvanize all the ideas swirling around. Liberals need time to develop reforms, but a leadership race doesn't exclude this process, in fact candidates become vessels for various perspectives. That said, we are where we are now, and I'll get behind the process in a positive fashion. However, I will not gloss over how we suddenly moved to the most extreme option during this vote, because at the root of this result offers a revealing clue as to where true reform must start.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Good Anarchist

I don't doubt that anarchists were responsible for "lighting the spark" in Vancouver, but that seems an emerging convenient way to absolve what really happened. Anyways, I note that the media are looking for the man who was beaten trying to stop rioters. What I find amazing about the video (start it around 2:30 in), the man is beaten by fans, but SAVED by an apparent "anarchist"(yellow shirt), unless of course gas masks are now trendy:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Night Of The Neanderthals

A battered guy on the ground wearing a Bruins jersey. A security guard getting the shit beat out of him, simply trying to stop looters from destroying his store. This colossal asshole above with the bloodied manikin leg, god only knows how it got that way. Looking at the video, the images, it's like some foreign land, but unfortunately it's Vancouver, and all the positive imagery of the last few years evaporated in one painful night.

I lived in Vancouver a long time ago, and I've since returned many times, it's a fantastic, vibrant city. The last time I was in Vancouver, the city was sprucing itself up for the Olympics, full of pride and ready to show off it's splendor to the world. Some called it the greatest Olympics in history, particularly the beautiful expressions, people taking to the streets to celebrate and share. We all know there were other stories of drunkenness and unseemly behaviour, but the overall vibe was simply tremendous and all Canadians felt pride that Vancouver had done such a exceptional job, even more the people that organically made for such spectacular scenes.

I have a confession to make, I don't like the Canucks. Not sure why, maybe it's a Leafs fan thing, but I find it hard to cheer for the team, despite past residence. However, I cheered for the city, because I know the passion and I absolutely LOVED the outdoor gatherings, it reminded me of the Olympics, it was CEMENTING Vancouver as a beautiful community, almost uplifting. One caveat, I've always hoped we could see such expression evolve from more than mere sport, but hey, you take what you can get.

What is particularly sad about last night, it was the very scenes of outdoor glee, massive crowds gathering to unite and share that ultimately turned into the most ugly display imaginable. All that positive energy, all the lead up throughout the playoffs, all the goodwill, absolutely obliterated, replaced by blood and fire, apocalyptic scenes and asinine residents. It is a real shame, because these images are being beamed across the world and Vancouver's image is forever sullied.

It really is amazing that 63 nights of playoff bliss immediately transforms into the most primal nonsense imaginable, erasing everything prior. What a shameful mess.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I suppose the scariest thing about being Liberal these days is the underlying anxiety that we no longer control our own destiny, at least to a certain extent. Truth of the matter, Liberals can transform and reform themselves, become a compelling entity, and there are still no guarantees. The reason is the "squeeze", further evidence today that the NDP are being pro-active on that front and anyone who believes it simply linguistic window dressing is seriously delusional:
New Democrats are preparing to cast off the shackles of the socialist label by eliminating the word from the federal party constitution at a policy convention this weekend.

“The New Democratic Party is dedicated to the application of social democratic principles to government,” reads part of a proposed new preamble to the party constitution, which will be voted on at the 50th anniversary convention in downtown Vancouver. “These principles include an unwavering commitment to economic and social equality, individual freedom and responsibility, and democratic rights of citizens to shape the future of their communities.”

That language is much different from what exists in the current version of the constitution, where the principles of “democratic socialism” are described as being against making profits and for social ownership.

Taken in isolation, you could fluff it off as spun as simply "modernizing language", and part of that rationalization is to appease a subsection of the base. In reality, another not so subtle sign of the NDP moving to the center, as Laxter notes in the article it's been slowly evolving for a while. Should the NDP demonstrate further progress on becoming a mainstream party, it presents a real threat to the Liberals and any hopes of a serious rebound. Again a disquieting realization, the NDP have the opportunity, if played correctly, our efforts will be handicapped by external forces.

We tend to get lost in the party colours, people see the NDP banner anywhere in Canada and it is immediately adopted as similar. To a lesser extent, the same holds true of Liberals, name trumps philosophy in the minds of many. I mention this reality because the federal NDP continually reference Premier Dexter in Nova Scotia, when the underpinning of his victory was a repudiation of traditional NDP ground and a decided move to the center. Dexter moved his party to the mainstream, at odds with the federal counterpart, that was the formula, which again made the blind allegiance to simple colour a curious disconnect. Former NDP Premier Doer was a centrist by every measure, if he were a federal Liberal, he would have been accused of being of the "right wing Liberal" variety I'm certain. My point is a simple one, the name is secondary to the true direction, "NDP" isn't some static position on the spectrum, nor should support for said banner be absolute, because it can stand for different things. The TRICK moving forward for the federal NDP, become a more centrist force, while holding your socialist base. This might not be problematic, because there is little alternative should this evolution occur in subtle fashion. As with Democrats in America, some timely red meat, mostly during primaries, is enough to keep their "tent" together.

A meandering post, but to bring it together, I don't think the NDP are simply modernizing language, I believe these word changes are another signal of a party trying to eat the Liberals lunch once and for all. From the Liberal perspective, the worrying situation is that the NDP has this opportunity, it is real and it can be successful. This election brought several sober truths, not the least of which is the NDP finally has the stage and can make the most of it. We Liberals control our rebuild, we determine our new identity, policies, direction, but it is a humbling truth that new political realities mean that doesn't necessarily equate to ultimate success. I think many Liberals understand this fact, which in almost contradictory fashion could assist our chances moving forward. Simply "modernizing the language" in the Constitution, nothing more, my ass :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Separating The Wheat From The Chaff

The fight over the Canadian Wheat Board is starting to heat up, although it may not mattter in the end. However, it is amazing to watch the Conservatives distort and outright mislead, combined with a justification for action which translates to irony in the extreme. The people have spoken!:
"Our government has always put farmers first, which is why western Canadians gave this government a strong mandate, and now they expect us to deliver on our commitments," Ritz said Monday in a written statement.

Let's follow the logic to its rightful conclusion. Again, the government now speaks of this mandate from the people which has some direct corelation to killing the CWB. The underpinning for this decision is the democratic will of voters, which surely must be respected and acknowledged. Let's adopt this assertion, but if we do, let's show some consistency before we champion "mandates".

The CWB isn't some monolith that exerts its will on farmers, it's a democratic entity that ELECTS members to the board. Further, this issue of single desk vs choice has been a central issue for many past elections, and guess what? In almost overwhelming fashion, FARMERS keep electing people who favour the single desk, who favour a monopoly. If memory serves, in the last expression, 3 of the 4 elected were single desk proponents, it was the central message in their "campaigns". In other words, when we speak of "mandates", what carries more weight a true, clean majority will or a party which has FOREVER ignored said democratic expression, even going further and attempting to bastardize choice, blur lines and downright deny CWB participation in expressing a point of view? Ritz using democracy and mandates to solidify the Conservatives decision is laughable and selective, the record is clear, this government has continually ignored the very tenets it now champions as absolute.

In addition, this government is creating a false reality as they dismantle the CWB. It defies the most basic of common sense, that if you eliminate the single desk, the CWB can still function on a voluntary basis. The Conservatives argue the CWB can still operate, but it's all a ruse to soften the true impact of their decision. What is inevitable, a slow death as the CWB influence wanes and competing interests swamp any idea of collective. If the government were truly being honest and upfront, they would just admit, their reforms will kill the CWB, let's all just move forward with this clear assumption confirmed.

You can argue that every individual farmer should have the right to decide their own direction. You could also argue that every single Canadian voter should have that right as well. However, with democracy, you speak of the collective want, you speak ot expression in their totality when deciding directions and policy. Those that oppose the CWB, but must remain within it's grasp have a right to dissent, no disputing many farmer don't support. However, again, you could extend this to the great population, many of us don't support Harper, but alas we are stuck with him until we can convince more of our fellow Canadians to turf him (and this is a kind analogy because the CWB support is a majority in ever sense of the word, not one borne of structure and inefficiences). Farmers unhappy with the CWB, you have a healthy, grassroots expression at your disposal, VOTING. Why do the single desk proponents keep winning elections in overwhelming fashion? If the CWB is so a slight that needs to be destroyed, surely we should see more farmers voicing their opinion by voting in like minded individuals?

After watching how this government has acted towards the CWB since it came to office, there is nothing more laughable that people now referring to mandates and democratic will to justify their decisions. If this was really about said democracy, then it would be business as usual, because beyond the wider populus, it is clearly what FARMERS want.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Party Of Paranoia

Obviously, a sweeping generalization, but in totality I would argue Conservatives tend to be a paranoid bunch. The rest of the world is an enemy, a host of motivations comes from an "us vs them" mentality, it provides inspiration and resolve. Fundraising revolves around fighting phantom menaces, positions always seem to entail some sort of suspicion, nothing is to be trusted, everything conspires. Taken to the most absurd extreme, even science is bloodied into some left wing vehicle, using dubious methodology to support ruinous theories.

In today's The Hill Times, a story about the real opposition the Conservatives face, the MEDIA. This thrust comes on the heels of what is perhaps the most bizarre fundraising letter from the Conservatives in some time. Now, we can argue about whether a bias against the Liberals, NDP in our mainstream media, supported by empirical, objective facts. BUT, one is entirely hard pressed to support the notion that the Conservatives persevered in spite of the "maelstorm" of negativity they were subjected to during the election. Fact, the Conservatives received the most favorable coverage during the election. Fact, the Conservatives received the most telling of all "support", with a near complete SWEEP of endorsements. On issues, the Conservatives played dodge and weave to great success, even the most nonsensical of proposals were quickly adopted as though credible. In other words, to actually posit that the Conservatives won DESPITE the media is patently absurd and requires certain psychological diagnosis for said proponents. And YET, I guarantee donations will flood to the Conservative coffers, because there is no question this idea of a media out to get them is deeply held and widely understood.

The Conservatives don't seem to understand journalism, or at least how it is supposed to act. Journalists aren't supposed to blow sunshine up your ass, they are supposed to hold you to account, they are inclined to ask questions and demand verifications. Let's take the evil Terry Milewski for example, a Liberal mole if I've ever seen one. Do Conservatives FORGET Milewski during the Liberals reign, the RELENTLESS pursuits, the dog on a bone mentality that haunted past governments? Did the world just start in 2006, or do we have the capacity to note that nothing has changed, the same zeal Conservatives claim conspire against them absolutely HAMMERED the Liberals in persistent fashion. Particularly in a majority situation, wherein the opposition is neutered and largely ineffective, the role of media becomes that much more pronounced to address and highlight slights that aren't in the public interest.

The Conservative base isn't mainstream, if the online manifestation is any template, it's a truly unattractive concoction. Perhaps the mentality within this fringe existence provides the clue as to kneejerk paranoia. Because the rest of the world operates outside the margins, there is a friction with the mainstream, it doesn't share the warped perspective so therefore it is the enemy. As well, this misfit manifestation forms an alternative collective, it feeds itself, insulates from outside assertions with mass denial. I submit the climate change debate again as a prime example, it's simply amazing to watch how shared reassurance can create an alternate universe. Again, forces exist trying to trick us, THEY have some hostile agenda and we must resist it and not be co-opted by THEIR "religious" desires.

You will notice on almost every issue, Conservatives have created an enemy, it begins with a negativism. The media perspective is nothing more than an extension of the core thrust which permeates almost everywhere. Even though evidence exists to support the exact opposite reality, Conservatives can still claim the press are out to get them- return their Liberal masters to their rightful domain- and find almost universal support amongst their hardcore base. So, when a reporter asks why you took money for a border fund and bought a gazebo, it isn't a pursuit for truth, it's an agenda showing itself. Seriously.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pound The Table

I'm not sure why we never really seem to have a national conversation about First Nations, whether it's because of collective shame, indifference or elements of racism, but the relative silence equates to passive acceptance. Last week Sheila Fraser again raised the issue of appalling conditions on reserves, which was followed by the usual shaking of collective heads, which invariably will lead to nothing of consequence.

Whatever your measure, rather than things improving on reserves, things are getting worse. The education gap is widening, living conditions deteriorating, essentials of life that other Canadians take for granted simply non-existent, it all congeals into a profoundly intolerable situation, and yet no sense that things will change in the future. Fraser's conclusion, not a new one, the present way of doing things simply doesn't work, it's time for a drastic rethink. However, it is depressing obvious that the political will doesn't exist, within that WE the populous are ultimately guilty for not demanding or caring, at least in any sustained way.

When Ignatieff first took the helm for the Liberals, I suggested he travel to one of Canada's most impoverished reserves and highlight the issues. Not a one day stunt, but part of a dedicated effort to draw attention, focus, a CORE issue that would define the "new" Liberal brand. For a party desperate to find an identity, I couldn't think of another "issue" that Liberals should wrap themselves in, because at the most basic level, that's the job of a politician to draw attention to issues, slights, concerns, which can then resonate because of unilateral focus. Part of the reason nothing ever changes on the First Nations file is because no party bothers to speak on the issues ad nauseum, nobody rolls up their sleeves and walks the streets, day after day, month after month until these issues become top of mind for Canadians. Within that reality, some dark elements exist, there is much hostility towards First Nations peoples, let's not kid ourselves and let's try to understand that part of the equation when translating to lack of action.

What we require moving forward is people who will pound the table relentlessly about the inanity of Third World conditions existing in one of the most prosperous nations on earth. We also need a complete evolution of thought, rather than dictation, mutual advancement, which means challenging both sides instead than appeasements. We need controversial solutions that attack the status quo all around. It's hard to think of a more pervasive, systemic issue that haunts the Canadian experience, that desperately needs addressing. The Liberals have failed in the past, these Conservatives convey underlying disinterest, I look to see something within my party rise and champion perhaps our greatest challenge. I also believe this type of moral imperative, if genuine in nature, would be rewarded. Politicans can make news, rather than simply react to it, let's plant a firm flag and force the conversation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Harper's Delusion

I enjoy listening to Harper's speeches after the fact, mostly because I can fast forward the particularly useless tripe. This morning I listened to the self congratulatory barn burner Harper delivered at the Conservative Convention. I don't begrudge Conservatives their moment, after all it's quite an achievement for their side, representing years of work to reach this pinnacle. Having said that, the rest of us can now enjoy the inevitable descent, because success and failure isn't really the deep philosophical achievement partisans would have us believe.

What I found particularly striking about Harper's speech, this almost delusion of grandeur tone, augmented by a sense of growing military prowess. Apparently, the world is changing fast, unlike past decades according to Harper, the stagnant order of things is moving and Canada is well placed to shine. Harper again makes this kind of odd comment:
"not just because we have the tools to act but the capacity"

A clear reference to increased military capabilities, I find this sentiment almost dangerous when put in the context of Harper seeing some larger role for Canada on the world stage. I believe these Conservatives do believe that an enhanced military is a vehicle for increased influence in the world, which is absolutely delusional in my view. A country like Canada never becomes a super power, we never flex our muscles to the world, we will always be a "middle of the pack" entity which Harper challenged in his speech. I agree Canada should pull its weight, but for the Conservatives there is a certain zeal that almost romanticizes the military, as though only true bravery and honour is achieved through a capable use of force. Listen to the way Conservatives wrap themselves in the military, as though only they truly support our troops, and you have a window into the bent mentality.

Harper has been an utter failure on the world stage, apart from praise on our economy, our stature has shrank under the Conservative watch, despite these claims. You listen to Harper and you'd think Canada is a rising force, you listen outside our borders and mostly it's "what happened to Canada?", perplexed and disappointment, not AWE. Harper:
"we take strong principled positions, whether popular or not, and that is what the world can count on from Canada"

The now typical Harper rationalization to explain our emerging PARIAH status in world relations. Irrelevant on climate change, non existent at the United Nations, playing NO role in key diplomatic initiatives, retreating from traditional development and aid, apart from the military angle, we've fallen badly in the eyes of the world. Harper turns it around as a virtue, being marginalized a testament to principles, when really it's a statement on his failure to understand foreign policy nuance. Harper defends the black and white world these Conservatives live in, that is strength in their view, even though that application simply doesn't jive with a shades of grey world. Supporters cheer this simplistic view of the world, but fail to see that rather than influencing, Canada is just being TUNED out, a marginal irritant, rather than true mover. Harper changed the wording of a communique, oh what a triumph, but really empty word revisions won't replace real back channel influence.

At the core, Harper believes a beefed up military gives Canada clout in the world. In reality, I recall past governments having the "capacity" to act, we have a proud history of doing just that, so Harper creates a false baseline. The military did need upgrading, modernization, so on that score some factual assertion, but to the Conservatives it seems more, almost like a juvenile machismo rather than an accurate read of priorities. We've withered on diplomacy, but Harper thinks a beefed up military will provide influence. Harper is dead wrong, Canada will always be an "augmentor", a good ally, but never a "driver", which is why we have formerly seen diplomacy and nuance as our international sweet spot.

Harper says former governments just "went along to get along", whereas Conservatives turn needless conflict and friction into a testament of principled foreign policy. The new reality, our foreign policy is really only for domestic consumption, it sounds fantastic in theory, but outside our borders, increasingly nobody is paying attention. So, while Conservatives wave the flag at home, enamoured with our supposed international greatness, remember abroad that flag isn't placed so prominently on backpacks anymore, and that's far more telling than rhetoric.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sink Or Swim

I'm not worried about the per vote subsidy being axed, primarily because it demands the Liberals sink or swim based on merit. The former system worked in many regards- the Conservatives clearly politically motivated rather than deep ideological desire- but the new reality is clear and "fair" in a basic sense. The Conservatives have allowed a phase out process that doesn't begin until next year, meaning an adjustment period is available. How the Liberals ultimately fare will be entirely our own doing, so beyond the changes, there is now an inherent mechanism that rewards the resonators, punishes ineffective and inapplicable messengers.

If Liberals are sitting here in four years "decimated" by the political fundraising changes, then I'm not blaming Harper, I'm looking in the mirror. Let's not forget, we still have a 75% credit for small donations, hardly a herculean commitment required to assist a political entity. If Liberals can't motivate Canadians to "give" within this generous tax credit system, then we're an utter failure and frankly we deserve to die. It's a pretty simple equation, motivate people with your ideas and vision, the future is bright, continue being a paleozoic entity with no real world applications and you are literally bankrupt. Let's forget about the Conservatives, what is wrong with that proposition, what is unfair about it, is it not exactly what Liberals need?

The new rules will force a grassroots revival, it is now the ONLY path available to the Liberals. This undertaking is not an impossible task, or a "handicapped" reality, it's pure democracy and there is no reason we can't thrive with the right message. Liberals are no longer entitled to anything, we have to earn every penny, Canadians must say, I like what you stand for and I'm prepared to pitch in for the CAUSE. If Liberals are sitting here in four years broke and generating little enthusiasm, then it really is a legitimate question to ask if we are no longer relevant to Canadian politics. Fundraising is now a barometer, there will be a direct co-relation between the coffers and conviction. I'm now fine with this new situation, because it's all about self determination, we have to appeal, no comfort blankets exist.

Liberals control their own destiny on the fundraising front. This whole issue now revolves around our performance, there is NO reason we can't thrive, and if we don't I won't be blaming the Conservatives. Bottom line.

Monday, June 06, 2011


A lot of anger and tsk tsk type condemnation of Brigette DePape. Oh my, this girl betrayed Parliamentary decorum with a spontaneous expression of personal opinion. How dare a young Canadian engage in such offense, within an institution that betrays all these holier than thou arguments EVERY SINGLE DAY. I agree, perhaps the venue was inappropriate, but how people are analyzing tradition and decorum, I'm wondering if they're commenting on Ottawa, or some fantasy land that only exists in theory.

DePape's action was a "stunt", it was planned, pre-mediated, devised to garner personal attention. Depape's protest was also somewhat original, or maybe more a novelty, by Canadian standards, which explains the disporportionate attention. However, Parliament routinely sees stunts, props, inappropriate behaviour, swearing, gestures, personal attacks, you name it, it's happened, so excuse me if I don't share the purist inspired, almost nonsensical read of how things should operate. I would say the actions of one young employee are minor in the grand scheme, the fact she rightfully got CANNED, well that's the price, anything beyond is just self righteous indignation.

The argument isn't about the past election, who won, it's about a girl who is passionate, who took an opportunity to express herself. Agree or disagree, but it's just one young Canadian who didn't want to remain silent. I don't plan on keeping quiet for the next four years, particularly because democracy isn't absolute or fixed in time, it's fluid and continually challenges.

I see a young woman who cares about her country and wanted to do something about issues she feels needed to be addressed. I think Brigette DePape should have been fired immediately, her expression can't be tolerated in Parliament and she was dealt with properly. As for the attention, well activists for every cause, right and left, are always looking for novel ways to get some- mission accomplished Brigette! I'm leaving the picture on my sidebar, because beyond all the STUFFY analysis, I see the antipathy of apathy. I see someone who wants their voice heard, no harm done, it's democracy, MESSY and sometimes yes, oh my GOOOOOODDDDD, rebellious in nature.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Sooner Rather Than Later

Not sure this suggestion classifies as a "reform" for the Liberals, but I believe it has merit considering the circumstances. Every sentence uttered by a Liberal these days includes, "renewal" or "grassroots", sometimes both. If this party is truly going to rise from the ashes and reinvent itself, resonate on the ground a simple practical measure is to accelerate riding nominations and get candidates in place for the next election.

Obviously, any rebuild starts at street level, which is why it would be advantageous to have all our candidates for the next election in place by the time the permanent leader is chosen. Rather than a situation where many candidates are picked just prior to an election, this type of "deadline" would ensure people spend considerable time branding their name within the community, attending events, rubbing elbows, a consistent presence during the supposed "down time" prior to 2015. The Liberals desperately need roll up their sleeves types, this type of long commitment would ensure the most dedicated, motivated stand for the party.

Rather than local candidates just being a name on a sign, the vast, vast majority really having no idea who they are, a long candidacy would help in that regard. Any issue in the local paper, our candidate is the representative available for Liberal comment. Liberals don't have the incumbent advantage, we don't have name recognition, which makes it imperative our candidates give themselves as much time as possible to connect and converse. Want to run for the Liberals, part of the job description means dedicating yourself to two plus years of attending corn roasts, hitting the farmers market every Saturday, meeting with local stakeholders, are you ready to do that? The goal being, come election time people say "I know so and so and I know what so and so stands for".

This suggestion might sound trivial, particularly given how the NDP rolled through Quebec contradicting this entire premise. However, if you're going to rebuild a party, establish a donor base, become a true grassroots entity, then having the local representative on board early, participating and getting involved, seems like a solid step in that regard.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Regressive Bloggers?

Progressive Bloggers has always been a fairly tribal, divided site, bordering on periodic bursts of nonsensical. As a blogger, I'm not really afraid, or give much concern to stepping on toes, offending other partisans. However, when you have a site which uses voting as a measure of prominence and stature, this approach isn't necessarily ideal. I know the game well, I've been blogging for years, I can guarantee which posts from certain people will get high vote rating, it isn't rocket science how da Prog Blogs works. I also know that the system on Prog Blogs lends itself to esoteric reaffirmation, as well as a certain alienation should one take opinions outside of majority want. That's fine I suppose, the nature of a voting system will always degenerate, not necessarily a statement on substance, more about agreement. I remember the days when any post that slagged Jason Cherniak was sure to solicit high votes, rationale or strength of argument completely and utterly irrelevant. I see the same thing on that site now in reverse, but I'll refrain from being more specific.

Why? Well god forbid I make another enemy, because the new Progressive Bloggers now allows people to give out ONE'S to posts, not just vote for what they like. I suppose you can convince yourself this is an advancement, but given how that place operates, the pitfalls are glaringly obvious. Oh, there is that asshole Steve V again, I hate that pompous windbag, no way he is getting a top post for the day, here's a ONE nimrod. Oh, there's my ally slagging the Liberals, it's important that gets prominence because I actually think a score on Prog Blogs will help our cause, here you go sister a FIVE. Anyone who doesn't think this is not how the site will operate is kidding themselves, we already have evidence of such with the current system, this one will only put more focus.

Progressive Bloggers looks like a popularity contest now from here, and not necessarily based on merit, but rather affiliations, alliances, political bias and agenda. It's simply human nature to vote up what reflects your personal opinion, heap scorn on anything that challenges or contradicts your sensibilities. Are we looking to create a circle jerk of self congratulating confirmation or a healthy debate, that respects opposing points of views? You can already see certain bloggers who choose their subject matter with voting or the acceptance that translates to, in mind.

The new system puts even more emphasis on voting that prior, which means more energy spent on voting wars as political proxy. In my world, getting votes on Prog Blogs is about the last consideration when I post, who I piss off or offend equally irrelevant. It's all about your opinion, and self censoring to avoid conflict or ranting in the name of perceived reaffirmation, what's the point really?

I predict this move will be regressive in the end, so colour me somewhat disappointed. That's my opinion, ONE it up :)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Harper Marginalizes Canada

Two separate articles in recent days that confirm Harper's failure on the Israel/Palestine question. What we have witnessed may win certain domestic friends, but the lack of sophistication, the tin ear when it comes to foreign policy nuance, has produced a truly unfortunate situation. A couple of days ago a Haaretz editorial supported the notion of Harper's irrelevance, with the general thesis being support from Harper was fine, but without Obama onside, Israel receives no practical benefit:

It's nice that Netanyahu found a leader of an important Western country ready to support his pronouncements, after other leaders turned him down. But Netanyahu's lobbying only brought Israel the illusion of success. Obama didn't change his position and neither did the leaders of the European Union. Even after supposedly yielding to Netanyahu's demand, they still believe that Israel should retreat from the West Bank, evacuate the settlements and allow the Palestinians to set up an independent state, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

The editorial speaks to the crux, while Israel may welcome Canada's support, Harper's G8 stance didn't change any minds, in the countries that ultimately matter in the peace process. In reality, Harper's stance is increasingly nothing but symbolism, with the added negative of isolating Canada as we move forward. Today's, Embassy piece speaks to Harper's isolation, rather than some wishful influence over Obama, really the Americans will just tune us out, all the while being unnecessarily irritated:
The biggest surprise for those who took issue with Mr. Harper's position, however, is that Canada is now out of step with the US—a fact that will likely not sit well with the Obama administration.

"At a time when Obama has been struggling so hard to get the peace talks going, why would we take a position which basically undercuts it?" Mr. Molloy asked.

Mr. Hibbard echoed those comments, saying that Mr. Harper's stand will not sit well with the US president—which has the potential to incur long-term impacts on relations between Canada and the US.

"When you have our prime minister undercutting the president of the United States, who faces a very difficult situation domestically on this issue, then he's losing credibility with the president," Mr. Hibbard said. "I cannot imagine that Harper will have a lot of influence in Washington. I thought that he would have been more sophisticated."

It's important for pro-Israel interests to consider the consequences beyond Harper's public support. What we have seen isn't courageous on Harper's part, it's plain STUPID, it denotes once again a lack of foreign policy understanding. A G8 communique has to be the most USELESS of proclamations, lacking in any real weight. In other words, if Harper was really interested in furthering Israel's interests, taking such a public stand was counter-productive, particularly with regard to the poster child of empty rhetoric, a G8 pronouncement. All Harper accomplished was to appear off side with other world leaders, with regard to a bunch of words that will have no bearing on anything moving forward. A shrewd strategy goes along with the rhetoric, while quietly working behind the scenes to further your position. If you isolate yourself, you can't "arm twist", you're almost a pariah, a voluntary outsider, that plays no role whatsoever.

Harper doesn't seem to understand that Canada isn't a superpower, it's stature is limited, and within that reality, our interests are best served by offering quiet counsel, not "courageous" positions, which is code for practical irrelevance. Moving forward, Harper has marginalized Canada on the Israel/Palestine question, which should concern those in the pro-Israel camp. Are people looking for a superficial cheerleader, or someone who is a true ally, in the sense they have weight and influence? If it's the latter, than all sides can agree, Harper's approach does nothing for Israel, it does nothing for the peace process, it just alienates allies. Factor in the damage Harper is doing to past relationships with the Palestinian side- who know see as simply parroting Israeli positions- and you have complete and utter failure, a foreign policy disaster. If the peace process does move forward, don't expect Canada to play any role whatsoever, that fact in and of itself speaks to the bottom line reality within Harper's blunder.