Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Canada a Representative Democracy Or Not?

The latest House of Commons seat distribution plan is becoming a test of federalism, as well as the basic notion of representation by population. Canada already has a unseemly Senate, wherein a British Columbian Senator represents more than twice as many people as a Quebec Senator, almost ten times that of a New Brunswick Senator. The Senate seat allocation is an affront on many levels, one can fully understand how the "west" in particular feels slighted. However, there is some underlying regional rationalization, but the makeup is forever an unbalanced presentation. Therefore, at the very LEAST, Canadians should expect their elected House of Commons to try and mirror the population distribution of the country. It is for this reason, that the Harper government can't back down and unfairly compensate Quebec to maintain some pre-determined seat percentage.

Initially, I favoured some appeasement for Quebec, because this country is about compromise, recognizing minority interests, ensuring that we have a viable francophone entity within the larger state. But, this sentiment confronts a fundamental unfairness, when weighted with other regional inequalities, it is almost imperative that the government gets this distribution right. British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario deserve more representation, by the most objective measure imaginable. If Quebec's population growth is waning, then perhaps the concern over diminished representation should address the underlying reasons, not look for artificial props to maintain undeserved influence.

If the government decides to accommodate Quebec's "threshold" demand of 24% representation in the Parliament, they effectively "screw" other provinces. This desire isn't so much even an Ontario question, many of us in this province could accept lower population representation, in the name of national unity and accommodation. However, when it comes to the western provinces, it's high time that the federation recognize certain inequalities and give deserved clout. Western alienation must be addressed for the federation to function in the future, a seat distribution reform that raises the federal presence, a healthy progression.

In the end, the government faces a very delicate balancing act. Certain interests will use whatever decision for political advantage, but really the questions facing the government are quite simple and clear. Canadians are represented by their MP's, the distribution of which should reflect regional population, a system that attempts to make every vote of equal weight, no matter the address. A federal Parliament which already has a asinine Senate, MUST have a House of Commons that is representative, mirrors the population and accurately reflects the realities on the ground.

Monday, May 30, 2011

So Much For "Intensity" Targets

Reading this piece on more lack of transparency from our government, I was struck by one line in particular, something that should concern us all because it negates even the most flimsy of emissions counters. Never mind that the Harper government buried the oil sands data from the U.N. report, this statement is depressing:

The data also indicated that emissions per barrel of oil produced by the sector is increasing, despite claims made by the industry in an advertising campaign

In the last few years the Conservatives have used "intensity" targets to mask a lack of progress on emissions. Overall emissions can rise, but the Conservatives can still claim great progress based on lowering what is puked out per barrel. At the very least, intensity reductions denotes progress, a very important aspect to the overall sales job. Let's just plow ahead, because we know technological innovations and improvements will drastically reduce emissions in the future.

However, here we have evidence which not only negates the optimistic future, but shows a situation where "intensity" is actually INCREASING. I admit, I'm even a little surprised by this revelation, one would expect a levelling at the very least. This fact begs the question as to why intensity is actually rising, DESPITE all these bullshit claims by industry, despite all this talk about improved techniques. An incredibly depressing reality, when you factor in the inevitable rise due to increased production, at the very least one would hope we could see some efficiencies. The Conservatives spoke of the lowest of bars to try and manipulate numbers to look a success. What kind of a worrying development that this industry looks poised to fail, and badly, on the most easiest of measures.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Harper's Irrelevance

The revelation that Netanyahu lobbied Harper at the G8 communique wording isn't surprising in the least, but it is very much indicative of Canada's complete international irrelevance. Supporters will argue, Harper was flexing his muscle, nixing any reference to 1967 borders, this denotes influence. In fact, Harper being off side with many of our key allies further relegates Canada to bit player status moving forward.

This G8 statement that Harper bolted on, with direction from Israel, completely undermines Canada's former role as "honest broker" in the peace process. When Obama made his reference to the 1967 borders, he did so with clear talk about land swaps. I never understood the hysteria, because Obama wasn't that provocative, the idea of land reciprocity has always been part of the equation. Obama never said that Israel must pull back all settlements to 1967 borders, he said that land taken since then must be part of some exchange, nothing new, this idea PART of every peace deal attempt in the past, it's merely bluster, rather than some massive American deviation. That the G8 leaders were prepared to accept including 1967 in their statement not a slight towards Israel, just further confirmation to a common sense reality, that everyone has already acknowledged. And YET, there is Harper the hero of Israel flexing his muscles, acting as a proxy for the Israeli government, further alienating and marginalizing Canada.

If you look at some of the productive work Canada is doing in Israel, particularly the West Bank, much of that ability comes from perceived goodwill, the notion that Canada has the unique advantage of appearing as an ally to both sides in the equation. It is this well trodden and established road that has led to a certain measure of respect, people see Canada as an entity that attempts to bring people together, it understands fairness, mutual self respect, a middle power that can speak to all sides in the debate.

Harper is free to change our foreign policy, but rather than reading about Harper "forcing his will" at the G8, Canadians need to understand that we are really marginalizing ourselves, and what's worse undoing all that goodwill that was cultivated over decades. This news that Netanyahu is successfully lobbying Harper is another sign that Palestinians no longer have a friend in Canada, we are useless, nothing more than an echo. Harper doesn't seem to understand nuance and perceptions, he is fully prepared to undermine our international stature, if it pays domestic dividends. How much is conviction, how much is calculation, this is a question we all need to ask.

The Conservatives have set it up now, so that if you take them to task on there Middle East approach you are suddenly anti-Israel, which is so offensive and divisive. The strategy has worked electorally, but really the whole strategy is unseemly and plays to the worst instincts, creates enemies. Harper isn't gaining stature on the world stage, he's gaining a reputation as a PARIAH. Parroting a sovereign state isn't leadership, it's irrelevance, it tells everyone we needn't look to Ottawa for clues, but Jerusalem, moving forward we're effectively a write off. Failing to understand this fact, also fails to understand our own history, how we've accepted we role in the world and used it to exert influence where we can.

Harper may have "accomplished" nixing some symbolic wording from an always useless G8 communique, but the bigger picture is Canada losing any credibility whatsoever as an honest, independent voice in the Middle East. Rather than try to move the peace process along, Canada is effectively an irritant, which means in the future, serious people will just bypass us. The question becomes, will the domestic conversation understand the irrelevance beyond the strategic bluster?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NDP Take High Ground

A shrewd little move by the NPD on "decorum" in the House of Commons, which denotes an accurate read of the public mood. The NDP will voluntarily establish a sort of code of ethics, no heckling:
Jack Layton and his fellow 102 NDP MPs will not heckle or behave badly in the House of Commons. The new Opposition Leader made this commitment Thursday as he unveiled a 43-member shadow cabinet that will go toe-to-toe with Stephen Harper’s 39-member front bench.

Mr. Layton says Canadians sent him back to the Hill – with a much bigger team – to fix Ottawa. Hence, the no-heckling decree

The above is the kind of symbolic gesture that the NDP excels at. It projects a party trying to operate differently, trying to change the toxic tone in Ottawa that EVERYONE agrees is unattractive. It's sort of a no brainer pledge to be honest. What I find frustrating as a Liberal, how we continually give up this sort of messaging, particularly when there is absolutely no downside to speak of. If only we had thought of this idea first. Oh wait, we did, well some poor sap did anyways:
November 2008:

Canadians aren't watching Question Period, a combination of past disgust and present apathy, the daily proceedings of Parliament, mostly inside the beltway stuff, with little resonance in the real world. That plain reality means all the back and forth is irrelevant, which then means, a party which defers doesn't lose anything, they don't suffer, in fact they could potentially gain. What if the Liberals just remained silent when people like Baird hurl the invective? Would it matter with the Canadian public? Absolutely not, so you then conclude, there is nothing to be gained politically from engaging in low road rhetoric in Parliament.

However, there just might be something to be gained, if Liberals came out with their own code of ethical conduct, a template for how Liberal MP's will act, respond and conduct themselves, with the general thesis, a respect and reverence for their place of work, a signal to Canadians that Liberals want to rise out of the gutter. Let the Conservatives act like clowns, Liberals merely sit on their hands, act respectful, ignore, patiently proceed, it really could be a public relations coup.

The reason nobody cares about Parliament, anybody who has viewed proceeding is quickly put off, die hard junkies aside. If Liberals developed a code of conduct, it would be a small gesture to express a desire to operate differently, endorsing the view that Parliament can do better, the institution has lost the public confidence. What do the Liberals have to lose? You lose the small satisfaction in telling Flaherty what a cad he is, or making jokes, or moaning, but again, all that crap gets you nowhere with the public, so what does it matter? Turning the other chin however, in deliberate fashion, might just get some traction, if there is knowledge that the conduct isn't random, but part of a more overarching theme of a Liberal standard.

MP's have already alienated the public, so to continue with the nonsense simply reinforces the irrelevance. Never mind the Speaker of the House, Liberals would be wise to voluntarily develop a different approach, that brings no political risk, and just might project something attractive to people, who are otherwise indifferent.

Someone should hire that clown ;)

The Longer Option

We have a choice between an insanely quick 5 month leadership race and one that could last as long as 21 months. I had preferred a middle option, and I still contend it's the optimal scenario, for reasons I won't rehash here. However, these are the choices Liberals must confront. Given yesterday's appointment of Mr. Rae as interim leader, I see the longer option as the preferred course and that's where my vote will go.

I have little doubt that part of the calculation for this 18-21 month delay is in consideration of Mr. Rae's parameters he set out. That aside, there is much logic in allowing Rae the proper timeframe to enact certain reforms, address the tough issues at hand and develop a strategy moving forward. To increase the odds of ultimate success, the longer option best suits, Rae has the mandate to dictate, a certain authority allowed because of the timeframe.

When we vote, if Liberals choose a quick leadership, we will only have 4 months to make the selection. When I close my eyes all I see is pure chaos, hasty and not well thought out decisions, not to mention a tertiary discussion about the issues we face. I really don't see a healthy scenario where various contenders articulate their visions for the party, the country, I see a mad dash that frankly stifles renewal. I want to see new people enter the fray, bringing in new members under their prescription, debate over direction, put these people through their paces, allow as much diversity as possible. A quick race narrows the field to our current caucus, and I see no advantage with this limited scenario.

The quick option isn't really an option from here, it's an added layer of self inflicted madness we simply don't need. With Rae at the helm, I'm comfortable giving him the required time to lay the groundwork for the party. Weighing the only two imperfect options, the longer option is relatively more appealing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Good Day

There are no guarantees moving forward, but the chances for a Liberal recovery are improved with Rae at the helm. Many of the reasons for very cautious optimism were on display during Rae's first presser as interim leader. The Liberals desperately need a steady, calm, ASSURED hand during what will be turbulent times. The Liberals need a compelling face, despite wishful thinking about leadership, it matters a great deal moving forward. Rae brings the gravitas that is required, he commands respect, he is like a wise sage, who's words people listen to intently.

I sense Liberals will now rally behind Rae. I particularly hope he cultivates this notion of the Liberals as the defenders of Canada, a strong federation, because there is a void now that simply requires a champion to ignite latent desires. Rae is able to articulate a vision and I'm particularly impressed with his capacity to understand that we need to draw people, rather than wait for others to repulse them. As well, Rae mirrored my view on vote subsidies, saying it will take care of itself if we develop ideas that motivate participation. Liberals can just ask for money, they need to inspire and I think Rae understands it must go beyond platitudes or window dressing. I sense the role of reformer from Rae, and if this means he wants 18-22 months to make significant progress, I'm prepared to revisit my earlier desire for a shorter interim period.

What Liberals need now most of all is a humble confidence, not some boastful rallying cry that also tends to gloss over the great challenges. Rae brings this characteristic, he will provide a glue that can hold things together while everyone moves in every direction imaginable. You need that central force, particularly now, so in this sense I feel we are quite lucky to have Rae as interim leader. Liberals will face all kinds of days moving forward, but today is a good one for sure IMHO.

"Episodic Journalism"

It's time to take stock, reflect on why things have gone astray and begin a process which will ultimately lead to a more accountable democracy, that truly serves the people in a responsible manner. Oh, you thought I was talking about the Liberals, didn't you?

Lawrence Martin's piece is important because it demonstrates serious reflection on the role of the media, but it's also striking in it's singularity. Martin's piece is really the only substantive review of the state of the media in the election aftermath, and I find that both curious and disappointing to be honest. It makes one wonder if the medium can truly police itself, always a challenge because you are sort of poking yourself in the eye. The only reaction I can find, that even acknowledges the column, comes from Chris Selley who thinks Martin "very unfair, we think, to the reporters working hard under those circumstances". An interesting defence I suppose, but 99% of the critical subject matter that journalists cover also work extremely hard under the circumstances, so is that really relevant to the thesis? I mean, MP's work their asses off everyday, but people still find the time to scrutinize their failings, right?

Perhaps Martin offers a blanket assessment, which doesn't quite capture the excellent work of many journalists, the great insights and principled perspectives of certain columnists, but beyond generalizations, he makes an almost self evident point which deserves further reflection:
But today there appears to be less independence in the media, less sense of outrage at abuses of power. Journalists of the baby boomer generation who were anti-establishment back then are old and more passive now, co-opted if you like. And the business has changed. In the 24-hour news cycle, the pressure is to move on to the next story without due diligence on the one that just happened.

Much wonderment has been expressed recently on why stories of abuse of power don’t seem to hurt Stephen Harper’s government. The stories don’t stick, it is said. The reason may well be, to cite Mr. Thomson’s cautionary words, because we in the media don’t stick to them. It’s episodic journalism. We report one story, then move on. We don’t probe deeply. If a Watergate was happening, the public would never know it.

The key term for me is "episodic journalism", which entirely captures the present media state. Part of it is circumstance, part of it is dwindling resources, but the final product is really an attention span challenged media, that is now EASILY manipulated by shrewd political strategies. During the election, there was nothing more bizarre that listening to journalists express surprise that stories like the AG report didn't have legs, when it was really a testament to the fact the same journalists voluntarily moved on. Again, part of this reality isn't the medium's fault, consumers also have little attention span, we get bored quickly, we demand constant stimulation and rather than focus we multi-task. The media landscape is a fractured and instant affair, how that developed very much a chicken and the egg scenario.

Martin uses the words "passive" and "co-opted", which again may seem harsh, but in totality seems an apt description. You can discount observations as simply partisan, but I've watched Harper manipulate the media with amazement for years. Maybe it's a subconscious reverence for power, maybe it's sheer proximity and familiarity, a coziness, I have no idea, but with rare exceptions, any "attack" on the government is temporary and then countered. The idea of "balance" has caused the passivity, because every issue is reduced to equal time, no matter the absurdity or illogical assertions, all views are presented and the electorate is left with confused contradictions. It is here where the true manipulations can occur, you oppose any story with counter noise and leave a muddled mess, offering no clarity on anything. I will submit the F-35 story as the perfect example, absolutely NO credible counter to the cost issues raised, and yet most stories come with government defences and little "calling out", because that somehow denotes a "bias". The government was misleading Canadians on the cost of the F-35 planes, that is a fact and the FACT Canadians never quite got a clear airing on the issue, extremely disappointing and symptomatic of a larger problem.

The Liberals aren't they only entity that require some introspection and self analysis...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sink Or Swim

The Gerry Nichols column denotes the difference between philosophy and partisanship. I believe political subsidies are a good thing in Canada, the reforms Chretien enacted took organized money out of the process and the relatively small expenditures allowed politicians to focus more on their jobs than soliciting handouts. Compared with the American system, that sees representatives spending exorbitant amounts of time on fundraising, distracted from their primary jobs, I'll take Canada's subsidy regime every time.

However, there is another side to this argument, which Nichols makes, representing the purest conservatism. It's an interesting column because it provides a disconnect between an ideological bias and a purposeful partisan strategy, disguised as ideological bent. There is no question Harper is moving on subsidies to cripple the Liberals. There is also little doubt that if not for political advantage, Harper wouldn't be moving quickly to end these subsidies, their priority reveals true intent. But, this is the reality that we now face in Canada, so rather than lament, it's time to accept the new rules and see if the Liberals can defy Harper's clear intent.

The Liberals face the double whammy of a reduced Parliamentary budget because of their third party standing. Staff are already being cut, resources are limited, it's a lean proposition. Now with party subsidies poised to end- probably some staggered extinction- the Liberals will bleed further, and it is actually QUITE serious. For the NDP, reality is blunted, because they have increased resources as opposition, better positioned to absorb the impact.

One thing is quite clear, the new rules will force the Liberals to revolutionize themselves. Whether we are capable of this transformation remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Harper's elimination of subsidies will force an entire new Liberal mindset. I'm not sure the reality has quite set in, maybe it will take a few months, but the bottom line is the former Liberal hierarchy is dead, the only chance for survival is a grassroots inspired entity. It's pretty simple really, either the Liberals appeal to the grassroots in a profound way that forces them to empty their wallets or it dies slowly, deluding itself of the true task at hand. Today's Liberal Party is already a past tense, I'm just not sure everyone grasps the gravity, we're still in "rallying" phase, which is admirable on some level. When the checks stop rolling in and we're down to the sheer basics, confronted with a hulking machine on the other side, then it starts to get real.

I'm going to take a restrained positive attitude, because these new rules also offer a reasonable opportunity. I mean really, when we get down to it, if a party can't appeal to people in a way that forces donations, it really does speak to a lack of resonance, relevance, it really is any indictment of failed messaging. On the other hand, it means there is a co-relation between fundraising and fundamentals, if we start to raise money in decent amounts, it will suggest we are actually rebuilding the proper way, people are responding to our message. In essence, the new rules will be a weather wane, they will tell the tale, whether or not the Liberals finally get it, whether or not we are done with vanilla presentations and are actually appealing rather than relying on the rejection of others. It's a daunting task, but a healthy one, we will sink or swim based on our own merits. The election results mean resonance is now our primary goal, the subsidy cuts only guarantee that laser-like focus, because there is simply no dissuading ourselves with fuzzy futuristic scenarios, our survival starts and ends within Liberal borders.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It Starts At Home

The Conservatives are ready to move quickly to kill the Canadian Wheat Board, a philosophical irritant to the notion of free markets. The Conservatives are poised to move quickly against political subsidies, just the word "subsidy" an affront to all things the right wing holds sacred. Conservatives are already rumbling about "cutting the fat", "axing" this and that, because austerity and fiscal discipline is a core belief you know. Not hearing so much on MP pensions though, despite the fact, from whatever angle you look, the system appears obnoxious, excessive, elitist and contrary to many supposed ideological principles.

Nobody disputes that people should be given a pension. What is in question though is how the MP pension plan operates in this unique universe, unlike your pension plan and mine, not only is it excessive, but it's immune to market forces, guaranteed in a way that screams "sweetheart" in every sense of the word.

When Harper announced his unnecessarily bloated cabinet, despite simultaneously preaching restraint and belt tightening, he rationalized the size using a host of lame excuses. Not least of which, this argument that "his government" had cut the size of ministerial budgets, a fact which forgets this is largely a function of moving certain expenses like travel for Ministers and staff DIRECTLY into the department themselves, basically burying costs to create a false narrative. This shell game aside, it allows Harper to argue against the optics of a bigger cabinet, despite our large deficit situation.

However, if Harper really wants to send a signal that his government is serious about "walking the walk", in ANY regard, he and his ideological pure supporters should be demanding reforms to the MP pension issue, which everyone agrees is unfairly lavish system. Why not do away with the guaranteed pension system, and replace it by giving MP's a raise, let them invest their own money how they see fit, roll with the economic realities like the rest of us, rather than taxpayers buffering their pensions. It's apparently unfair to subsidize political parties, but Harper has no problem maintaining a system which has no real world exposure, the money is simply doled out by us, zero investments or "funds", just a direct subsidy to former MP's? Why not give MP's a little more in salary while they are in office and let them invest it in the same way all other Canadians do? Why not set an MP pension plan, a fund, just like other professions? Where are you ideological conservatives, where is the pressure, where is the consistency?

Does anyone think it fair that Gilles Duceppe is guaranteed a 3 million pension, with no worry about future economic prospects? Does anyone think a still vital 50 year old Keith Martin requires a 4 million dollar pension? People don't begrudge a pension plan for our representatives, many actually give up bigger salaries to become MP's. Where the disconnect exists, the sheer EXCESS, as well as the entirely different system, shielded from the very free market that is so essential, such a core consideration. If Harper wants to send a signal that his government is really serious about "cutting the fat", then dealing with these obscene pensions would detract from the "do as I say, not as I do flavour" to all these philosophical proclamations.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Formidable Foe

Susan Delacourt's piece yesterday presents a sobering reality, at least for those of us not supportive of the "Conservative coalition". However, there is no disputing this reality, further emphasized by an almost bedrock underpinning that guarantees permanence moving forward. No other party can brag about such a loyal base of support, at least in terms of sheer numbers. A built in advantage that will only grow as our electoral map changes and shifts focus. I have to agree, there is every possibility that these Harper Conservatives dominate the political scene for many years to come.

It is quite amazing that Harper sits with an impressive majority, with almost no presence in Quebec. Along the same vein, the NDP have swept the province and their reward is ZERO real world influence. Both facts speak to a new era in Canadian politics, which will only be re-emphasized when the new regional seat distribution map is truly digested. This Conservative coalition looks all the more resilient. when we incorporate the very near future. You look at the conservative power base, as well as regions where a center right alternative has an entrenched history, and the challenge for the opposition entirely daunting.

Things tend to ebb and flow in Canadian politics, but I do agree that this Harper coalition is stronger than say Mulroney's majority metric. I call it the knee jerk base, tried and true, no danger of it revolting or protesting really, intoxicated by power, it will be there, wallets agape for the foreseeable future, no question about it. Factor in all of the almost institutional in nature advantages, with the added regional power shifts, and it's an impressive presentation.

I'm not sure Canada is anymore conservative than in the past, but by offering this "value" based identity, there is enough of an attraction for "swing" voters that meld with the rabid base to create a formidable foe, with ever expectation of future strength.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I keep hearing about this "almost unanimous" feeling amongst the rank and file that WE prefer a 18-24 month leadership delay. I'm sure that's true, except in my little world of contacts and conversations, I hear about delaying yes, but up to 2 years, must say hardly any evidence from this outpost. Rather than guesswork about where Liberals really sit, Alf Apps telling us about the flood of emails and overwhelming "consensus" on delaying at least 18 months, I would like a more TRANSPARENT account.

There is plenty of suspicion in this party, and that is borne from past behaviours, it's a LEARNED response. Because of this reality, it is INCUMBENT on the "brass" to produce a process which is entirely in the light of day. Reading Bryden's piece, it really is frustrating and disappointing if true:
Federal Liberals will be asked to postpone electing a new leader for 18 to 22 months.

Under the party's constitution, a vote should take place by late October to choose a successor to Michael Ignatieff, who resigned after leading the once-mighty party to a historic defeat on May 2.

But the party's board of directors has unanimously finalized a plan to get around that constitutional requirement.

The party will stage a special virtual convention on June 18, at which delegates will be asked to amend the constitution.

The proposed amendment calls for a new leader to be chosen sometime between Nov. 1, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2013.

The precise date would be set five months in advance by the board, in consultation with the Liberals' parliamentary caucus and riding presidents.

Who came up with these dates, AND where is the EVIDENCE that this decision is really the result of consultations and feedback? Does the brass not realize many rank and file don't trust their word or interpretation of what they hear, they prefer an upfront account, let us all see the feedback. There is only one solution that respects true will of the party rank and file, that really does speak to one member, one vote and that is to have a clear vote on future leadership dates. For example, where the hell is the option for delaying one year? I know MANY Liberals who don't want a quick race, but also don't want to wait a full two years? If we are given this stark choice, then you force an unfortunate choice between two perceived bad options.

You will never convince me that we can't have a vote on amending the Constitution for leadership, followed by 2 or three date options for alternatives. The fact we can't seem to incorporate OPTIONS with the alternative leaves me very concerned, makes me think this is a "pat on the head" exercise and ultimately the brass will decide what's best. Talk about a missed opportunity to come out of this process with a respected outcome, NO this process will lead to many feeling slighted, many feeling their voice wasn't really heard, they were given choices DICTATED by others.

You're blowing it Liberal Party apparatus, you're BLOWING IT BAD. Who decided 18-22 months is the only option available? I want to know where this "consensus" comes from, where is the empirical evidence to support, rather than simply certain people dictating terms? Beginning the "new" era of the Liberal Party with the same old TOP DOWN dictation is a joke, it tells me people don't get it AT ALL. What I'm sensing, all this consultation is nothing more than band aids, rather than a REAL respect for the people that keep this TUG afloat with their money, energy and passion. We will have a choice apparently, but without a middle ground option, you've left many with no choice and disrespected their wishes for a truly open and transparent process.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Get With The Program Or Get Lost

One thread I particularly liked from Rae yesterday, this idea of "changing the culture" within the Liberal ranks. This morning, I read an article on the whole Rae issue, and it's accompanied by this glorious quote:

"It gives one a completely unfair advantage compared to everybody else," said a re-elected Liberal MP, who deemed Rae's letter a showcase of "unbelievable vanity."

Speaking of vanity, feeding the press lines to make yourself appear important. I know I'm not alone, many grassroots Liberals are SICK AND TIRED of this bullshit back biting leaked to the press. As far as I'm concerned, job ONE on changing the culture within the Liberal ranks is to PURGE this type of nonsense, which only undermines, creates divisions and very unhealthy atmosphere. Think Rae is angling for something else, call up your colleagues, express yourself at caucus, call Rae and challenge, whatever re-elected Liberal MP, but don't be such a GUTLESS flea and run to the press with your beefs.

I know our numbers, and I suspect re-elected Liberal MP is also aware, which provides a sense of confidence. However, I don't care if we have 8 MP's, if I were to become interim Liberal leader, one of my first directives would be to tell everyon, either get with the program or get lost. There are a million venues to express displeasure with this or that, but nothing is ever accomplished with these unhealthy leaks. You don't see Conservative MP's engaging in this behaviour, NDP MP's, no this is a Liberal DISEASE and we need to cut it out. As well, this habit of people shooting their mouths off under the guise of "outspoken" has to stop, again have a point, raise to your colleagues, not to the press. If people can't respect this most basic of party discipline, then it's time to move along, find another party, become an independent, whatever but GET LOST. I'd rather have a smaller, unified (at least in public) caucus and apparatus, then be forced to cringe for the next four years as loudmouths run to cameras to appear important, that's not "independence", that's BULLSHIT.

If Rae does get the gig, I hope his first order of business on the "changing culture" front is to read the riot act, and beyond that forcibly pursue every single leak of the above order and when found out, enact the strictest discipline. It's simply inexusable that other parties can present a unified public face and the Liberals are continually hobbled by back stabbing. Enough is enough, once and for all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rae Will Run For Interim Leader

Canadian Press reporting that Bob Rae will not run to be the Liberal Party's permanent leader, and instead will seek the interim leadership. From my perspective, this decision represents the optimal scenario for the Liberals moving forward.

Rae has all the attributes necessary to carry the Liberal banner during this transition. Most importantly, assuming he is chosen, the Liberals will have a compelling, articulate and most of all RESPECTED politican taking the reigns, ensuring a measure of attention and fascination. As I've mentioned in a previous post arguing for Rae to forgo the permanent role, he commands unique stature in Parliament, the only man I've seen who can quiet the cat calls, because all wish to hear his thoughtful words.

Rae's decision must not have been easy, but it represents the kind of personal sacrifice for greater good mentality that MUST dominate Liberal thinking moving forward. I suspect Mr. Rae has sensed the vibe within the Liberal ranks for new blood, a generational change, but it still must have been a tough choice, given he is clearly of Prime Ministerial material. I applaud Mr. Rae, and actually have more respect for him, given this decision.

Bob Rae is also a democrat, which bodes well moving forward on the party renewal front. I think Rae will make an excellent steward guiding us through these times, rather than simply waiting for a leader, we can all have confidence in him laying a strong foundation prior to this selection.

I'm very excited about Rae's decision, I think it represents the best possible direction under the circumstances. Rae brings exposure, he can deliver a great soundbite, charming, engaging, knowledgeable, even captivating, this is exactly what we need to keep up appearances while we select a new leader and eventual direction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Watcha Gonna Do About It

What Harper did today on the Senate was one of his most outrageous acts. The sheer audacity, Harper didn't even wait until Friday afternoon to drop this announcement, instead he voluntarily stepped all over his cabinet shuffle. The Conservatives have betrayed old commitments, usurped democratic will, perhaps even "one upped" those dirty Liberals that they so despised, again just brazen disregard. But, here's the kicker, it simply doesn't matter one IOTA and Harper bloody well knows it.

If there is one thing these past few years have taught us, it's that what appears a blight is really a mirage, relegated to chattering classes, while the real world chugs on unaffected. It's for this reason that Harper can do what he did in the middle of the week, and sleep like a CHAMP tonight, secure in the knowledge he acts with impunity. Layton didn't score any points, nobody heard him and Harper is well aware. We have four years of rule to look forward to, you think one voter will be moved by a Senate appointment in 2011, let alone REMEMBER it? Speaking of remembering my fellow political junkies, think of all those issues that arose over the past five years that seemed "big", would "resonate", etc. Nada, they all disappeared, and this circumstance occurred with a minority, the threat of an election around the corner. Heck, in my little world, I had myself convinced this spring that we had a "cumulative effect", wherein all these affronts to democracy would be congealing into a compelling counter narrative, Harper would face a backlash. BAHAHAHAHA!!!

Next week, Angus Reid will release a poll saying 72% of us reject Harper's Senate appointments, 54% strongly disagree. The political junkie class with digest, MYSELF included, but it's time we understand what Harper has already figured out, it's irrelevant. Yes, if there is one lesson from today, in the most starkest terms imaginable, it's that Harper has cracked the code, he operates with no concern for the consequences, because he knows there aren't any. Disagree, that's fine, but I see today as almost a paradigm moment, that entirely encapsulates the political reality. Why didn't Harper do this on a late Friday afternoon? Because he didn't have to, that's why.

Getting It Right?

No matter your "position", you at least have to acknowledge there is some real back and forth occurring between the Liberal brass and the membership. I say this for a couple reasons, primarily because I've been asked directly for input and suggestions seem to be taken seriously as this process evolves. Reading Jeff's account of a meeting of grassroots Liberals, you do have to give Alf Apps some credit for engaging, regardless of how it was received. As an aside, I agree with Gerard Kennedy, the whole Apps obsession complete and utter useless distraction, he's gone in a few months anyways, lets focus on what is truly important. In addition, much of this Apps stuff strikes me as the same old "camp" nonsense that has crippled us in the past.

I've suggested that we need "clarity" on this leadership question, a simply delay vote without a specific alternative is a weak choice. Faced with an immediate vote and a possible two year delay, the quick vote might be preferable. I've floated June 2012, or thereabouts, as a sensible compromise, it gives us some time, but it doesn't handicap our renewal evolution waiting to long for a leader. If I'm reading the questions put to me, as well as what Jeff is inferring in his post, there is an openness and we WILL have a more specific question, which to my mind is good step forward.

A clear question put to the membership for a direct vote, that scenario strikes me as pretty much getting it right, under the circumstances. Those concerned about the Constitution, I hear that sentiment on strictly philosophical grounds, but I'm not sure it digests how this amendment "goes down", this process respects the membership, it doesn't go around them. The Liberal Constitution isn't some document worth of tablet form derived from Mount Purity, let's face it, much of it has been crafted by hacks and insiders. As well, this particular stipulation we are amending was just put in last cycle, it's not some long standing tradition we are trampling over. That said, I appreciate the concerns, we do have to respect our tenets, it's just here, this one instance, isolated in nature, I see the grassroots deciding so I'm good with it. If the precedent is any action that deviates from the letter of the Constitution necessiates a direct vote by the membership, how is that offensive?

I look forward to a specific question, and hope it addresses some primary concerns. Is the process perfect? Absolutely not, but if it centers around democratic expression, it's a positive development for a party that needs much more of this direct interaction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shaking Off The Timidity

Plenty of talk about where the Liberals need to move, left or right, the center, when really it should be about standing for things we believe in and letting the spectrum take care of itself. Truth is, people don't fit into neat little boxes, part of the success of the Conservatives is using certain policies to connect with people that wouldn't be top of mind targets, it's how you build a winning coalition of voters.

One word epitomizes the Liberals in recent years, "timid". Liberals always seem to first consider who they might offend with a particular position, which often times leads to watered down policies or just avoiding issues all together. Anytime a "bold" position is articulated, it's met with "oh, but" and the idea is torn apart, in the name of trying to be everything to everyone. Always trying to accommodate, forever afraid of controversial views, this mentality has contributed to the rot of the Liberal brand. I've experienced examples of this mentality on this blog, when I've demanded "bold" and offered examples, it's often met with "that's reckless", or "we don't want to touch that", or visceral reactions that scare people. In reality, any real position will offend, alienate, but the power of conviction is also appealing and attractive.

With the above in mind, when I think of liberalism, I see the issue of euthanasia as one of the next great debates that we need to have in this country. I've mention prior some of the EXACT wording that comes from this CBC piece on the topic, the notion that the public is well ahead of politicians:
There simply isn't any other issue on which the public and the politicians are so out of sync with each other.

The discrepancy was picked up by Vote Compass, an online survey of national issues on CBC.ca during the recent election campaign, according to director of analytics Peter Loewen. "The Vote Compass data help us identify issues in which the views of our respondents match up with none of the parties. Euthanasia is the most startling case," Loewen said.

This is how the Vote Compass question was worded: "If they so wish, should terminally ill patients be able to end their own lives with medical assistance?" Almost all Vote Compass respondents were supportive of the option, regardless of political stripe. Only a small hump of Conservative supporters strongly disagreed with the notion.

To try and soothe Liberals, I go beyond simply philosophical arguments. Liberals should champion "choice", the principles are core and yet we avoid this issue like the PLAGUE. Why? Because, people react strongly, you WILL offend subsets, euthanasia is forever controversial. However, championing the issue also has tremendous appeal, which is why euthanasia has a moral, as well as strategic, value. Polls have shown overwhelming support for at least limited euthanasia, this CBC compass polls confirms this sentiment in resounding fashion. In fact, of all the questions, it is on this issue that we see the greatest chasm between public acceptance and political timidity. Also, as with other findings, apart from hardcore Conservatives, there is little electoral downside, but plenty of potential. If you breakdown the regionals, the results are even more informative.

Liberals need to start standing for things, that reflect core philosophy. Liberals need to be provocative, we need to challenge, we need to put ourselves at the center of important discussions, rather than avoiding and not being current in application. The Quebec government has started the conversation, we've had some marginal introductions in Parliament, but the issue remains almost taboo, DESPITE every bit of evidence suggesting the public is ready for the conversation. Liberals have a lot of work to do in the near term, but when we get down to who we are, where we stand, how we reconnect and energize the brand, THIS issue deserves consideration. The issue speaks to everyone, it has philosophical underpinnings, and above all, it isn't safe and bland, it's progressive, not reckless. Not alienating anyone isn't a virtue, it's a voluntary paralysis.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Independence Equals Weakness In Today's Ottawa

Outgoing Speaker Milliken has articulated his thoughts that "party leaders wield too much power" in our Parliamentary system. It's hard to argue with the logic, apart for the belief that caucus should play a larger role in deciding leadership, that seem like a regressive idea from here. However, the notion that party leaders dictate too much, stifling independent thought and direction from MPs, creating this monolithic presentation, is something to consider.

From the Liberal perspective, while we can visit electoral reform, I also think we need a reform package that deals with the PRESENT structure, modernizing it in such a way that our representatives are more directly accountable. I have a few ideas in that regard, but keeping to Milliken's conclusion, it's important to understand the present state is a reaction to a certain immaturity that exists. I would argue that political parties are reticent to advocate more freedom, more decentralized control, because the environment in Ottawa is such that independence equates to some kind of disunity.

If we are truly desirous of more independence from our MP's, then there has to be some acknowledgement that differing views isn't a sign of weakness. Part of the reason leaders demand "discipline" is because EVERY occasion where an MP goes off script, exerts independence, it is seized upon and it causes optical trouble for said party. Words like "divided caucus", talk of why the leader can't "reign" in his/her people, all this nonsensical framing occurs which forces a more top down approach. The circumstance dictates tight "message control", allowing MP's freedom to write their own QP question for example is viewed upon as risky, because of how any deviation will be interpreted.

Milliken's suggestions are sound, but it's only part of the reality, and it does develop in isolation, in fact it's part reaction. In this simplistic world, any evidence of differing views is counter-productive. This is why the leader's view is the party's view, is the MP's view, is what we hear in QP, is what we see in committee, partially because WE can't handle any spice, it has to bland and repetitive. I'm all for reforms, I want my MP's to be more independent, but that has to accompanied by a new found maturity in how that freedom is interpreted. At present, the Harper model of iron fisted discipline, total and complete control, MP's sheep in every sense of the word is the WINNING template. Sad, but true. It's almost suicidal in this tabloid flavour environment for one party to unilaterally adopt an more open, egalitarian structure.

Moving forward, the Liberals should adopt serious Parliamentary reforms, not the watered down VANILLA stuff we came up with this election. However, much of it must try to incorporate the entire system, rather than unilateral pledges which for the above reasons leave people at a optical disadvantage. Milliken recognizes the problems with present reality, but I'm not sure it acknowledges WHY this is the preferred course.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We NEED Clarity

Two good reads today, relating to this looming "extraordinary convention" question, which is clear as MUD to be honest. I won't get into the details, Peter and Jeff do the heavy lifting, but I do have a suggestion or two.

I have some serious problems with this open ended leadership question. As Jeff points out, by the time we vote on the constitutional amendments, it will leave about FOUR months for the leadership, if we reject the proposal. That strikes me as lunacy to be frank, given the circumstances and I'm actually quite suspicious of motives for those advocating we plow ahead regardless. I understand that the Constitution should be adhered to, but since this stipulation was just implemented, it's hardly a traditional core tenet that can't possibly be amended. In other words, I'm okay with amending, IF we have a vote, because this 5 month stipulation was borne of the same mechanism, it's fair, it's democratic, it respects grassroots want. Unlike Peter's excellent detailed analysis, past precedents don't concern me in this instance, I'm focused on this circumstance solely, just as I did in 2008.

Here's the rub for me. If I have to vote on delaying the leadership WITHOUT an alternative date, it creates a whole new host of problems. Just as I think a quick vote is counter productive to renewal, I also think TWO years is far to long to wait, this scenario will leave a tremendous void where Liberals simply spin their wheels. I have advocated something around June 2012, because that gives ample time for digestion, allows a bigger group to consider, allows an orderly, organic process, where we have a deep debate and many voices. One year seems a healthy compromise to the two extremes, and I'm sensing the two year option is losing favour with some initial advocates: people recognizing that while we need to slow down, we don't need to grind to a halt. With the above in mind, I want a question that goes something like the following:
"Do you favour delaying the leadership vote, amending the party Constitution, and in turn support replacing the previous date with June 2012?"

We can quibble about exact timing, but my point is I want to decide, is it November OR, not November or "whenever some people decide it's best". The reason, if I have to chose between a unhealthy snap vote and an equally unhealthy two year delay, I might just favour getting it over with to be honest. I suspect I'm not alone in this logical conclusion, so it is IMPERATIVE that our party leadership flesh this question out, make it specific, give us an either/or, there is no other reasonable way.

In addition, this kind of definitive question puts all the speculation to rest, Liberals know that if they delay the vote, then it's going to be an alternative date, no mushy speculation, no unknowns, BLACK AND WHITE, let's get on with it already. If we don't have an alternative date, then energy is continually consumed with dates, timing, we simply don't need to delay that decision. There is nothing precluding this "extraordinary convention" from having a clear, concise list of options. You could even have a two stage, where you vote on whether to amend the Constitution, then a preference for the alternative date. That suggestion isn't complicated, YES/NO on amending, then X one, two, or three date options, thank you grassroots Liberal, let's tally it up and move forward.

We can amend the Constitution, particularly if we use a democratic mechanism, I'm not bent out of shape with that proposal at all. But, I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the ambiguity here, because we have mere days to register and we have all these questions remaining. Really- and I don't mean to be trite here- it's not that complicated, at least what we are being asked. If you want the cleanest, tidiest solution, then the amendment vote MUST be accompanied by a alternative date question, the two are forever MARRIED and both have to be addressed together. If we are merely voting on whether to delay or not, with a real possibility that delay would equate to two years, I'm not sure what I would do, and it's really unfortunate if it comes down to that blurry picture. Surely, we can do better.

Liberals Never Go On The Back Burner

After the election, much talk that the Liberals would fade to the background, being that third party attention would lead to inevitable wane. I would submit the Liberals never become an afterthought in this Parliament, partially BECAUSE of make up, which is a strange assertion I know.

Majority government's are BORING, in the sense that they're predictable, opposition attacks never have "teeth", there is a comfort which translates to disinterest. The drama isn't the same under a majority situation, every twist isn't analyzed to death, the endless election speculation removed, which I would argue constituted a large percentage of overall focus. We will still have focus on contentious issues as they arise, but it's a much different rhythm in a majority than a minority. With a more structured storyline in Parliament, I would contend fascination with the internal machinations of the Liberal Party will maintain top billing, this idea that we fade to oblivion not a terribly large concern.

The NDP will certainly garner media attention, as people look to see how they handle their new found status, manage new MP's, grow into their role, that is a compelling story. Apart from this novelty, I would submit, most of the "action" will be on the Liberal side, for better or for worse. The little third party will command disproportionate attention, I'm absolutely convinced of it. It's not borne of positives, it's a function of upheaval, uncertainty, precarious existence, conventions, leadership, rebuildings, a fascinating concoction that will generate total fixation. In other words, the Liberals will remain on the political front burner, because that's where all the intrigue exists, particularly in a bland majority Ottawa.

I don't suspect the "rash" of news about the Liberals is temporary, because the story lines have ENDLESS oxygen, for those desperate for ink, you can make a living off this party, many already HAVE. A bit of habit here, but everyone wants to know what happens to the "natural governing party", do they actually die or do they rebound? Everyone will watch every twist on that road, and while a great portion of coverage may not be flattering, for a party desperate to keep itself in the public consciousness, attention is a good thing. As they say, "it's when they stop talking about you" that you really need worry, and I'm so NOT worried about that part of the equation moving forward.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Open It Up

What I find quite refreshing about Rob Silver- apart from his terrific political instincts- the man understands the gravity of the situation and is positioning himself as a leading voice on the Liberal "reformer" front. For my money, Liberals would be wise to listen to him, that kind of energy and almost revolutionary commitment is SORELY needed moving forward. Yesterday, I read Rob seizing on an Ibbitson idea about having Liberals having American style primaries. I admit, my first instinct was to reject, primarily(oh punny!) because I worry about scenarios that allow for "gaming" of the system by our rivals. However, after letting it settle in, reading Rob's column, there is merit which is worth considering, particularly on the broader point of REFORMING how we pick our candidates.

I've long argued that ridings remind me of little fiefdoms, once someone wins a riding, they purge all dissent, installing a rock solid infrastructure that completely disallows subsequent challenges, at least formidable ones. It is this dynamic which contributes to the ROT in the party, people stay on to long, the same people control ridings, stifling new entrants, new vision, new blood, new ENERGY. I'm completely on board with any reforms that OBLITERATE the current conventions, but that's a wider point.

On the question of primaries, again I agree we need to open up nominations and voting. All to often, the process to become our standard bearer is reduced to marginal tactics and internal "gaming", rather than healthy democracy. A little club, that manipulates to pad the ranks, then restricts to put it back in smaller hands. I've always found it kind of unhealthy, particularly on the "new blood" front. I'd use the analogy of compost, if you just put it out and let it sit, it doesn't really work, you must constantly turn and change the composition to get a final product that optimizes eventual growth.

The one caveat with primaries, how to ensure our opponents don't bastardize the intent. I don't see massive numbers like down south, which suggest ample reason to worry about a motivated opponent base reeking havoc. One idea I have to further Silver's point, that respects my concerns, what about an open primary, with the stipulation you can't be a member of another political party and/or donated to any party other than the Liberals in the last year or two? Logistically, I'm not sure that is "on", but in this way you eliminate naked manipulation and you don't really "close" to the general public. Anyone who is a member of another party, or donates, is very unlikely to be receptive to the Liberals, so no danger of excluding potential voters, with the added bonus of keeping the process a "cleaner" presentation. Donations are readily available on the EC site, not sure about member lists, this may be a non starter, but worth considering.

Let's open up the process, I for one open to radical ideas, but not just for reforms sake. Upon reflection, the concept of an open primary has some merit that we should flesh out. We would just need some measures in place to keep certain interests from manipulating and making a mockery. One thing is clear, although I won't agree with everything, people like Silver have the right idea on where this party needs to go if truly is to survive.

Friday, May 13, 2011

With All Due Respect

I'd like to see if I can dip my toe in this pool, without getting scolded for being disrespectful. Mark Garneau has thrown his hat into the interim leader ring, and I think he's a strong choice, no problem if that's the selection. Reading a Susan Riley column today, she delves into the leadership question with the now emerging "insulting" thesis as it relates to Mr. Rae. I've heard that same sentiment expressed here and elsewhere, these interim leadership "stipulations" an affront. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't fair on the face, all reasonable rebuttals, all valid as part of calm debate.

I absolutely adore Bob Rae, he has a stature which few politicians enjoy. I've made mention many times, that during Question Period, pay attention to how the rancor stops when Rae rises, even his enemies quiet down because they want to hear the man speak, he commands that kind of respect. Well versed on every topic imaginable, philosophical, thoughtful, affable, attractive, engaging, charismatic, by any measure an impressive man, that Liberals are LUCKY to have within our ranks. So, if I depart from the Rae bandwagon, please don't be "insulted" if I think Mr. Rae needs to re access some realities here and come to the painful determination that he isn't going to become Liberal leader. Let's cut to the chase, everyone knows Rae wants the top job "bad", and it's been that way since he joined the Liberals. Fair enough, again a man of his experience surely can envision himself as the leader, has the confidence and skill to be capable and effective.

However, given what has just transpired, the gravity of the situation, the almost painfully obvious pre-requisite that GENERATIONAL change is job one, Bob Rae leading us into the next election in four years is frankly irresponsible and delusional. You can reference this historical leader or that, but for this Liberal Party of Canada, at this death bed juncture, the prospects of trying to re brand ourselves with the man who was a NDP Premier two decades ago, baggage to boot, seems like suicide. Again, and it seems many agree, we need a new leader, new in every sense of the word, which to my mind excludes Mr. Rae. Is that fair, is that disrespectful, is that not appreciating his contributions? I frankly don't care, I've watched two great men lead this party and get destroyed, was that fair? Fair doesn't exist in politics, what exists is the realities at hand, and rallying behind Mr. Rae as permanent leader, requires a complete leave of your senses in my HUMBLE opinion.

I'm waiting for Mr. Rae to realize that he isn't the best option moving forward, I'm curious if he can put ego aside and see the greater good here, because to my mind, it really is a no brainer, given the unique circumstances we find ourselves in. Bob Rae is the antithesis of "new", another time perhaps the ideal choice, but now? With that in mind, I hope Mr. Rae reconsiders and throws his hat into the interim ring, not because it insults his stature, but because that could be his best contribution. I worry that we will pick Mr. Garneau, and Mr. Rae will run for the leadership. That's Mr. Rae's prerogative, I know he would enjoy great support, from passionate and honorable Liberals, no question there. That said, you will never convince me in a million years that the answer to the Liberals problems, our future, is with Bob Rae. Things have changed, things have changed BIG TIME and people best forgot past aspirations and realize we have ONE chance to get this right. With all due respect, Bob Rae is never that choice, and frankly I don't even think we need the distracting prospect. That's just my read, sorry to offend certain quarters, but I'm not censoring myself, particularly now. It's time to move forward, it's time for generational change, internally, within the party apparatus and ultimately with the leadership and the time that aspires beside her/him. That's the reality, let's just get on with it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

And, I Read It In The Globe And Mail No Less

I know, I know, an editorial board does not a journalist story make, but pardon my "sour grapes", "partisan" blinders, for noticing the sheer hilarity. Are you sitting down, because this may come as shock? The Conservatives are backing off their election pledge to slay the deficit early, only DAYS after the election:
With the election results barely a week old, Conservatives are muddying the waters around a central – and surprising – campaign pledge.

The revised 2011 budget that the government will present next month will not show a surplus by 2014-15 as promised in black and white in the Conservative campaign platform, even though the government insists it still intends to deliver on the election promise.

I recall the rage when The Globe And Mail endorsed the Conservatives. I also recall a central criticism was how could the paper endorse a party that changed it's budget forecasts in such short order, as well as FAILING ENTIRELY to explain where the sudden savings were coming from. No accountability, no way to tell truth from fantasy, and yet the Conservatives pulled it off didn't they? In SPECTACULAR fashion I might add. I recall lots of commentary, and I also recall the defence dismissing valid concerns under the guise of "oh partisans are never happy". What a terrific reality, you can deflect everything with this convenient crutch, and ignore the legitimacy behind.

I, like thousands of others, pointed to just this deficit BULLSHIT, as a core reason why endorsing the Conservatives was tantamount to shilling, rubber stamping sheer dishonesty. For my money, one of the rare columnists or editorial boards that has an ounce of credibility left is Andrew Coyne, who didn't endorse the Liberals, but because of reasons above couldn't SANCTION such deceit. And, that is what it is, PURE DISHONESTY, the likes of which Canadian politics hasn't seen. Oh sure, all parties "fudge" here and there, but all these goodies offered years out, it's all predicated on this massive budget shell game.

That Flaherty will now re-introduce the budget that was tossed aside during the election, is just astounding betrayal. That the ruse produced a majority, tough to swallow, not JUST because I'm a Liberal, but because it does such a disservice to the whole process. Last election, the Conservatives ran out the clock, denied the recession and FAILED to deliver their OWN environmental plan, despite central focus. This election the Conservatives have truly outdone themselves, with an even more masterful deception.

When everyone is done brushing off criticism and putting it in the convenient "oh sour grapes partisans" file, maybe they can look at the objective substance of the criticisms, because guess what MSM, you bloody well blew this election big time! Liberals will be immersed in introspection, it would be nice to hear a little from the conduit as well, because it was b movie performance and this story turns those sour grapes into fine wine indeed. It really is INCREDIBLE when you think about it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gracious To The End

Things move so quickly, one moment you're watching a townhall thinking what a great Prime Minister this man would make, the next you're reading a farewell exit. People can point to faults, blame, but it's also worth recognizing a sincerity and grace, from a man who really was the "happy warrior". A perfect closing thought on this chapter, because in a strange twist of fate, the detached elitist was at his best with average Canadians:

“The only thing, really, to say is this: Everybody always tells you how tough a game politics is and how brutal it is. What they don’t say enough is how incredibly good the Canadian people are to you even when they don’t vote for you,” Mr. Ignatieff told reporters at the same microphone where he has regularly answered media questions as leader of the official opposition.

“And, as we take our leave of politics, I just want to express my enormous gratitude to all the people we met as we went along the road, their kindness, their civility, their sense of humour,” he said. “It was a privilege to serve the Canadian people and we leave politics with a sense of what a privilege it was and what an honour it was.”

Thanks Mr. Ignatieff, this superficial game never really deserved you.

June 2012

Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Some are demanding we adhere to the constitution and have a leadership straight away, others are talking about waiting two years, I would submit a porridge too hot, too cold analogy, the middle ground just about right.

I simply don't think the Liberals are ready for a leadership fight in the next five months, given what has happened, that logic borders on irresponsible. People don't even know what just occurred, what it means, digested the daunting mountain of work in front of us. I strongly believe this defeat needs to sink in, our core people given time to retool, we are in a great time of internal upheaval, budgets, staffing, restructuring our Parliamentarians, EVERYWHERE you look, you can see some serious transition required. Those pounding the table for an immediate leadership, in my view, don't quite grasp where we are, how much ENERGY is required to focus on dealing with this result. Liberals to me at the moment resemble tornado victims (not to be flippant), wandering around the devastation, wondering where to begin, not sure what just happened, in a state of shock frankly. Plowing ahead with a leadership reeks of a bad call, dividing when we need to rally together, distracting when we need to focus. We have basic needs at this point, so a delay is SHREWD and necessary.

On the other hand, I don't think Liberals can really wait two years for a leadership, because there is a compelling argument that much of the rebuild requires a leader, someone to build the team in her/his image, develop policy and direction, etc, etc, etc. Waiting two years strikes me as overkill on the "go slow" approach, once we get back on our feet, I foresee an unnecessary "dead spot" in our development should we delay that long.

I think June 2012, or thereabouts is the perfect solution. This decision would allow the best compromise. Waiting one year would mean the leadership race would begin soon, but at first on the back burner, gently rising in action, just as we get develop a rhythm with the new realities. Time to breathe, time to focus on structure issues, but not off the distance so much so that leadership isn't on our mind. Prospective candidates can quietly travel the country, glad hand, and actually participate in this grassroots conversation, offering their ideas and direction. Liberals can listen without pressure, ponder suggestions and reforms, a one year process could actually be the fundamental "rejuvenation". Not rushing allows time for real new blood to ponder a run, it opens up the possibilities. One year isn't so long that we sit in perpetual limbo with lame duck leadership, people can see a resolution and we build towards that culmination, hopefully a convention that we can look back on as the turning point for the party.

The one year option looks entirely attractive and responsible. It incorporates this election result and all the challenges we now face, some of which we don't quite comprehend yet to be honest. The date also reflects the fact we do need a leader, and waiting forever actually stunts reform and renewal, it becomes counter-productive. I believe if we all calm down and recognize what is best for the Liberal Party of Canada in totality, the wide angle lens, June 2012 or thereabouts, looks like "just about right".

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Get It

I love a good protest as much as the next person, but I prefer it be rooted in certain underlying facts, rather than a study in contradictions. Here is the development on amending the Liberal constitution:
But according to a draft document circulating among Liberal officials on Monday and seen by the Star, the party wants to convene a special general convention on June 12 to amend the Liberal constitution.

It would be a “virtual” convention, held over the Internet, with Liberals casting electronic ballots to change the leadership-succession rules and push the choice of a leader further into the future.

According to the document sent to the board Monday night, Liberals found a loophole in the constitution allowing them to escape an early vote. The national board will go ahead and set a leadership vote for Oct. 19 as required but then convene the special “virtual” convention on June 12 to change the six-month limit in the constitution. The board envisions that a leadership vote can then be set sometime roughly a year from now

Okay, so the "brass" has devised a plan, like all entities we do have a leadership structure, and by nature they tend to make decisions and shit, that's sort of their job. Now, I get the past, and I think we need to turf a lot of the "brass" to be frank, but let's STAY FOCUSED ON THE ISSUE AT HAND. I read that WE will decide if the Constitution will be amended. I read that WE will have a VOTE to decide, not told what will happen, but the membership will DECIDE if the "brass" idea has merit or not. It's not different than a referendum question really, and last time I checked 30 million don't participate in the phrasing, but they do on the validity, so what's the beef exactly here, other than fighting OLD battles? About the only interesting point I've heard comes from Bob Rae, who laments that we can now suddenly have online votes, when in the past that was deemed impossible, some merit in that criticism for sure.

I've read a PILE of grassroots Liberals resisting this idea of a quick leadership vote, so the idea here isn't simply a top down creation, in fact it looks very much like a response to feedback from the membership, MP's, party people AND the top down types. In other words, an amalgamated opinion emerged that we needed to WHOA on the leadership question, this isn't a cabal deciding unilaterally, it's the "brass" calling on the membership to decide if they're reading the mood correctly. If you don't like it, then VOTE against it, but doesn't the fact you have a VOTE sort of undercut this boogeyman argument? I mean I'm VOTING, I have my voice, so where exactly don't I HAVE a voice in this instance, just this one, not others, again STAY ON TOPIC.

This morning I read an argument for a quick leadership race, by the always thoughtful Adam Radwanski. Facsinating that one name seized upon, Justin Trudeau, is himself saying leadership should be put on the back burner, even he is resisting a quick vote. The "push back the vote" crowd comes from Liberals from all stripes, so the fair thing to do, is to have a democratic vote and let LIBERALS decide. Again, I want Apps to step aside, I want to tear the house down and build from scratch in many regards, but I can also separate all that from THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE. We will vote, the brass doesn't decide, WE DO, so rather than ranting wildly, why not look at the substance. Looks like grassroots democracy from here, on this ONE issue at least.

Rae's "Rules"

The new "rules" for the interim leader read as though they were written for one person, because well, they were. To be clear, I'm sensing little appetite for Bob Rae as next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. You already seeing the "youth" thrust emerge and it's only going to build up a lather as we move forward. Quite simply, Rae's opportunity to lead this party has passed, that seems readily apparent, apart from stubborn refusal. We have four years until the next election, and with internal "change" in the air, a real stretch to see us going into the next election with Rae. I have no empirical evidence to support my contention, but I feel fairly confident in my assessment. "Generational change", "new blood", "reinventing ourselves", none of these buzzwords support Rae, in fact they suggest a clear move away. For those that think Rae would be a wonderful permanent leader, I respect that opinion, I just don't agree and it increasingly looks improbable.

These rules are the Rae contract, and I hope he accepts the terms, because under these conditions he may well be the best choice. All the intangibles are there, an incredible effective and thoughtful orator, almost an elder statesman respect, what's not to like? Baggage abounds, but for interim, as a bridge builder, not as much of a concern. I'm also heartened that these new rules reflect exactly the concerns I've heard articulated over the last few days, head office got the message, from all quarters apparently.

The way I see it, Rae has two choices. Accept these stipulations and become interim leader or reject them and never become leader. Blunt yes, but perhaps a blue sky perspective, because certain moments have now passed, old ambitions are just that and the party requires seismic changes. I never see Rae as that transformational figure, but I do see him helping us get there. Take the gig Mr. Rae, it looks like a "as good as it gets" proposition from this outpost.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Interim Leader

Apparently, it was decided a couple hours after the election defeat, that we MUST have an interim leader by Wednesday of this week. I'm not sure who determined that caucus must make that decision this week, nor have I seen it written in tablet form. An interesting suggestion, proposed by Liberal Leslie Swartman was to delay the interim leader until the summer. Some merit here, we only have a token Parliamentary session forthcoming before the summer break, plus everything seems to be moving a bit to fast for a lot of Liberals. I made the point that it isn't imperative to have an interim leader 9 days into a 1460 day, minimum process towards the next election. I think it is worth considering simply delaying naming any interim leader until everyone has the opportunity to digest, rather than jumping into another decision that will have lasting ramifications.

However, assuming our caucus does pick a interim leader Wednesday, I'd like to explore Stephane Dion as a possible pick. I mentioned Dion a few days ago on twitter, which solicited some support as well as smart ass responses. I note that Kinsella is also floating Dion as possible interim. I think Dion is an attractive option, for a number of reasons.

With the devastating result last week, Dion is strangely rehabiliated, no longer the leader who brought our "worst defeat", but now part of a process that was obviously much larger and corrosive. The decline began before Dion and continued on after him, so the blame game has caused some revision, and within that Dion can be seen in possibly a different. Some people have used vindicated, but I prefer better understood. Dion as leader again would have seemed absurd a few months ago, but now I sense a different atmosphere.

Dion is bilingual, while old guard in Quebec, he does enjoy core respect and the fact he retained his seat, despite the "wave" speaks to his stature. Dion is an honorable, honest man, nobody has ever disputed this fact. Dion is also devoid of future ambitions, as a caretaker ego not an issue, nor any distractions, other than leading during this transition. Dion also has experience, he's lead a caucus, he's lead a party, he understands the party beyond caucus.

I'm not sure Dion is the perfect choice, people will point to baggage and other issues. However, if I'm thinking seriously about what is best for the party in this intermediate period, who I would trust to tend to the party while we get our shit together, who would act with grace and class, I'm not ruling out Stephane Dion at all. Liberals could do a lot worse at the moment.


Via twitter:


#LPC president Alf Apps says there will be NO interim leader chosen this week -- next week soonest. Someone should tell Chretien. #cdnpoli


Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Right Wing Media

Lots of introspection going on these days, with one glaring omission- our mainstream media- which just soldiers on as though serious reflection isn't warranted. Maybe it's because votes aren't cast on media performance, although whenever we do see public sampling, the verdict is anything but kind. Maybe it's because of political bias, of which a now ALARMING body of evidence has been amassed, over several elections. Maybe it's the stubborn human flaw of pointing fingers at everything but yourself, esoteric isolation that allows for some detached free pass.

I finally read one piece this morning, which speaks to the decline of "real" media. It begins so optimistically, actually questioning why the media has allowed Harper to treat them with such disdain, and get away with it. Unfortunately, it devolves into another slam on social media types usurping good, old fashioned reporting, as though citizens are to blame for journalistic failures. Important here, this is a GENERALIZATION, there are many outstanding scribes, who do great work, and really contribute to our political process. That said, maybe a moment in front of the mirror is required, because if any vacuum is starting to exist, it's simply a testament to coming up short.

I firmly believe now, moving forward, that the Liberals- and the NDP for that matter- should operate as though the media is the enemy, not a way to get messaging out, but something that largely must be overcome. Any attempt to reconnect with Canadians must entirely bypass the mainstream media, the evidence suggests it hostile, it's corporate nature and centralized ownership, uncovers a clear conservative bias. That's right I said it, no not a left wing bias, but a RIGHT WING bias. That's the reality here in Canada and center, left types, better darn well digest that reality, because it is now entrenched. Again exceptions abound, but pull back in totality, the BLUE HUE is unmistakable and empirically validated, unlike the delusional machinations from the right.

It is imperative for the Liberals moving forward that seize social media in aggressive fashion, because traditional forms translate to a stacked deck. The Liberals have one advantage now, so decimated that media scrutiny starts to look like overkill, the gaze will now be trained on the NDP for the time being. This development doesn't mask reality though, because any sense of return will also bring the unyielding negativity, in conjunction with the enabling qualities that have allowed Harper to basically marginalize traditional media. As well, the Harper template is now a rousing success, so the notion that one "needs" the media has been challenged in unprecedented fashion. We have the most remarkable circumstance wherein outright SCORN for the entire profession is met with overwhelming SUPPORT from said profession. Amazing, but also a glimpse into underlying bias, because by any objective measure this type of compliance equates to validation.

Again, where is the media introspection in the aftermath of this election? Yes, Liberals had a dreadful result, but my goodness, this election was no crowning achievement for our media either, and yet I'm reading nothing on the topic. Maybe, that's where social media comes in, the only vehicle available that allows for scrutiny of the "final" presentation, we don't accept it, we don't condone it, we don't have to lap up the crap on our own shores. It's time for non-Conservative types to wonder aloud how we recalibrate a slanted presentation, how we find ways around a corporate media that largely condones, even runs cover, for one side of the spectrum. There is something profoundly wrong in this country, outlets/entities that are nothing more than party propaganda extensions, on television, in print and all over the radio. The game is changing before our eyes, and it's a THREAT, with no powerful counter balance readily available. The question for non-Conservatives moving forward, what is our strategy for going around an obstacle, getting messages out to the Canadian people that aren't bastardized by majority presentations with agendas? Rather than get continually frustrated, demanding something that NEVER comes, we have to be creative, innovative and forward thinking to counteract and reach people.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The "Moment"

Two fascinating pieces, detailing how and why the campaign turned. When history looks back on the 2011 election, I do believe the moment in the debate, discussed in these articles, will be the "spark" turning point so to speak.

When Layton delivered the attendance line, I was also yelling at my television for a powerful response, because frankly there were obvious retorts that would have negated the entire attack. In that one moment, we had a sobering recognition, that while we admired our guy, his political instincts were still wanting. The response to Layton was obvious, immediate and yet nothing came, I was immediately disappointed. No one could have foreseen that the NDP would use that exchange to the degree they did, but it is also true that line was a central strategy. Not showing up for work, it's simple, it speaks to people, it resonates in a clear way. One can see why the NDP fancied the attack, but a more skilled response and I think the accusation could have been turned around into a wonderful positive.

Our pollster confirms what many of us thought pre-debate, things were going quite well, the numbers narrowing ever so slightly, we were within range. That the debates were central isn't news, everyone agreed prior that Ignatieff needed a strong performance. I found the contention that Ignatieff didn't do much prep, most of it was done pre-writ, a bit of surprise, because he looked over prepped to me. Instead of a natural flow in the English debate, his answers were choppy, as if he was searching for the line he was supposed to "insert here". Ignatieff was much more at ease in the French debate, but the damage was done, Layton had his line and the NDP shrewdly shoved it down our throats.

I would agree with the "what really sunk Ignatieff" arguments, seems a fair read of what transpired. If one is looking for an election soundbite to encapsulate the campaign, the exchange between Layton and Ignatieff is most suited to be the "moment".

Friday, May 06, 2011

Here We Go Round Again

Even if you support Bob Rae as interim leader, the way this is going down should alarm everyone:
Chretien promoting Rae as interim Liberal leader

Jean Chretien is urging Liberals to support Toronto MP Bob Rae as interim leader of the decimated federal party.

Sources say the former prime minister has been phoning both defeated and re-elected MPs since the Liberal party's historic defeat in Monday's election.

The once-mighty party was reduced to third place with only 34 MPs -- even Leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat.

Chretien has been promoting the idea that Rae should be interim leader for two years, giving the party time to pick itself up off the mat before going into a contest to choose a permanent successor to Ignatieff.

Rae appears to have considerable support among Liberal senators, most of whom were appointed by Chretien and who now outnumber the tiny group of elected MPs.

However, some MPs say privately that a backlash is developing to the machinations to install Rae

If this is the first order of business of the new Liberal Party, backroom dealing, I'm thinking we've got exactly what we deserved.

U.K. Rejects Electoral Reform

A bit timely, given some sentiment in the last post, but United Kingdom voters have given a "resounding" victory to the NO side on electoral reform:

Campaigners against changing the way MPs are elected have claimed a "resounding" victory as the No camp gained an unassailable lead in the UK-wide referendum.
With 403 of 440 results declared, more than 11.4 million people had rejected a switch to the Alternative Vote, with 5.2 million in favour - a margin of around 69% to 31%.

Senior political figures on the No campaign said the scale of the victory meant it was not simply a vote against AV but a firm endorsement by the public of the first-past-the-post system

The vote wasn't even close, a complete drubbing. I pose a few open questions. Do we tend to overstate the electoral reform sentiment within the electorate? Now I realize this is a foreign example, but we've had our own votes, with similar failures. Amongst the engaged, I sense an overwhelming desire for reforms, but I still wonder if there isn't a disconnect with the public at large. There is no clearer verdict than a vote, it lies at the heart of any process, so that judgement can't simply be dismissed. Is it the form of the reforms? Is it that people don't like the current system, but alternatives seem risky by comparison? Is there a general want of reform, that evaporates when faced with practical implications? I have no real answers, but once again the purest expression of democracy has rejected reforming itself, and that requires some acknowledgement.

No Urge To Merge

It is true that we need to hear from all Liberals on the merger question. It is also becoming obvious that there seems to be limited appetite for the idea. Factor in an NDP basking in it's new found powerless power- at a historic apex- very hard pressed to see that side even entertaining seriously, at least for the time being.

I'm prepared to keep an open mind for the future, but for this moment anyways, I'm not going to waste much energy discussing or participating in a conversation which might just be counter-productive. In other words, I'm focusing on the Liberal Party, even if a merger is possible, FIRST must come attention to the homefront. The political scales are simply tipped to much to one side at the moment, some in the NDP ranks are bordering on insufferable- where is the practical impetus from that side?

More importantly, while we do see some philosophical convergence, in the same area code on many issues, there is also vast chasms that make people on both sides uncomfortable. I don't see the former merge of the right wing parties as frankly a template moving forward, apart from superficial comparisons. It is very correct to state that very different, INGRAINED cultures exist with the the Liberals and NDP. At the core, I'm not sure a merged party could stand for the same things, that it could amalgamate in a way that spoke to all core constituents. The same could be said for the right merge, but I would argue the differences not as pronounced, current leader more irritant than underlying thrusts.

Here is my forecast of where we are at the moment. The NDP have absolutely no desire to serious entertain a merge, many are frankly convinced the Liberals are dead, what's the point. From the Liberal camp, people seem to be looking internally to find solutions, rather than entertaining complicated scenarios involving a merge. I hear a few voices floating a merger, but it seems dwarfed by those vehemently opposed or not inclined (a unscientific sampling for sure, but I'm confident that's the case now). I wouldn't declare the idea dead, but I also think it's pretty much a waste of energy to push hard on this score right now, it simply lacks the critical drivers. Liberals or NDP, I sense no urge to merge.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

"Not A Party Of Power, A Party Of Purpose"

Don't read anything into this post, but I believe it a sort of template sentiment moving forward. The fact it was discussed in 2006, a bit disappointing now, but I believe every Liberal should listen, because it's where we always had to go (video not best quality):

Why now? In my last post I discussed the past, reminded me of an old speech, came up in the comments, but not the one I remembered. That Kennedy speech in Vancouver in particular- dreadful video aside- is still some of the best stuff I've heard since I joined the party.

Tough Love

In the aftermath of this election, one thing is abundantly clear and that is Canadians don't share Liberals pre-occupation with nostalgia. If there was a moment in this campaign where I sensed the election was over, it was when our brain trust looked to the past for inspiration (as they did in 2008 as well, with similar headlines), it told me that we still didn't quite understand our audience.

I never understood why Ignatieff, or his handlers, so readily embraced the Liberal lineage, spoke in successive fashion, as though the latest prince of a historical dynasty. Maybe it's because I haven't been a Liberal "forever", so I have a detached objectivity, but I know for certain that Canadians see a very "checkered" brand when Liberals wax poetically about the gallant past. I'm not discounting the tremendous achievements, as a student of history I appreciate and understand the central place this party has played in our nation's evolution. However, I also understand, in the starkest terms possible that the past is both inspiring and an albatross, particularly for a man like Ignatieff, with no direct involvement in the "glory years", the connection was more hindrance than help.

Our brand needs to completely and utterly re-invent itself, so to hear Ignatieff continually take ownership of the past in speech after speech, I would classify a core strategic error. The embrace was a clear signal that Liberals didn't understand the mood of the country, Canadians simply didn't share the same pride, the flowery history lesson. This fact explains why when the "change" bandwagon began, voters completely BYPASSED the Liberals, all establishment, all the time, hardly a testament to something different.

I've moaned on this topic for sometime, and I've met resistance from fellow Liberals. We had a great economic record, we had a great international stature, we had this, we had that, but the key word for me is HAD. With that reality in mind, "reminding Canadians" is forever a double edged sword, primarily because of all the baggage a trip down memory lane provides. If I had one piece of advice for Liberals, ditch the rear view mirror routine, it moves no voter, if anything it repels(if you look at turnout, it also apparently does NOTHING to turn out our base, the ultimate indignity). Liberals should remember their past, be proud of what was accomplished, lament what was lost, but that should be a private conversation. In public, in regard to brand, we need to become the "New Liberals", a complete and utter re-introduction to Canadians, which necessitates a public break from the past. The Canadian public, both solitudes, have spoken loud and clear, let's understand what they've said once and for all. All I see is the horizon in front of me, that's IT.