Sunday, December 23, 2012

Responsible Journalism Is Dead

Mission accomplished Canadian Press, you've generated that elusive "buzz", with your "controversial" decision for Newsmaker of the Year.  I'm sure someone around the decision desk brought up the absolutely dreadful optics of giving a depraved killer exactly what he yearns for, ATTENTION.   But, that common sense was obviously trumped by the misguided desire to turn heads with this "edgy" selection.

The Canadian Press have divested themselves of any sense of responsible journalism, in the name of attention grabbing consideration.  In so doing, CP has made a mockery of the tenets the organization supposedly lives by.  CP has provided Magnotta with the greatest Christmas gift his demented mind could possibly hope for, that the organization must know this, what makes CP's decision all the more scorn worthy.  An attention whore names an attention whore Newsmaker of the Year, perhaps fitting in the end...

What a disgrace.


In fairness, as has been mentioned on da twitter, CP simply canvasses Canadian newsrooms and tallies the results.  It is still their survey however, and their methodology for the choice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Trudeau Tease

There are plenty of conflicting messages swirling around the Liberal Party.  There is also a tension for Liberals moving forward, between sober realities and game changing possibilities.  One school of thought argues Liberals have to rebuild from the ground up, accept their third party fate and rebuild the brand with a long view.  The other view sees unmistakable "buzz", largely as a result of Justin Trudeau, and can't help but incorporate the x factor into the equation.  While I intend on remaining neutral in this Liberal leadership, I also think myself an utter fool to not acknowledge the Trudeau effect on Canadian politics.

Another poll out this weekend from Leger, putting the Liberals in a tie with the governing Conservatives should Trudeau take the helm.  Trudeau pads Liberal numbers a full 13% nationally, 11% in his home province.  The Liberals take votes from all quarters, but the NDP suffers worst, there is simply no denying a seismic shift with Trudeau at the helm.  Perhaps more intriguing, with the recent "gaffes" incorporated, we see no discernible support erosion,  a testament to voter disinterest and a measure of superficial calculations.   Polls are "approach with caution", of that,there is no doubt, but to ignore is equally flawed analysis.  Truth be told, the Trudeau tease very much puts the Liberals back in the political conversation, to the point a return to power looks attainable.

Beyond the polls, a more important indicator for Liberals.  People actually go out of their homes and attend political gatherings if Justin is present.  Liberals have understood this for years, Trudeau is possibly the biggest single fundraising draw we've had, he's been sent everywhere and back to drum up support for a languished brand.  When you factor this enthusiasm into potential election volunteers, you can equate a formidable force, which needs to be understood and digested.  For all the organization problems the Liberals have, much can be overcome if there is a draw which brings in new, energetic blood.  As well, I recall ZERO organizational strength for Dippers in Quebec, a testament to the power of political waves usurping traditional calculations.

This leadership race is shaping up to be an interesting affair, I'm quite pleased that real issues look poised for serious debate.  I like several quality candidates, there is a genuine appeal that could well win my support.  However, there is this overriding shadow cast by Trudeau, for the simple reason that there is an almost phenom quality, impossible to fully ignore.... 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Opposition "Co-operation" End Game

Plenty of ink and conversation revolving around the merits of co-operation amongst the opposition parties.  As well, talk of which parties are truly "left", "progressive" and how any party overlap would truly deal with vote splitting.  While I support the idea of co-operation in principle- primarily because it at least acknowledges the current system favours the Conservatives, despite limited support- it really is nothing more than a half measure in the final analysis. 

Joyce Murray has brought co-operation into the Liberal leadership race, akin to Nathan Cullen in the NDP race, perhaps an irony not yet digested.  The Greens are fully on board with co-operation, as Elizabeth May has recently reiterated.

 Murray cites the impetus as a need for "like minded parties" to come together, have a runoff of sorts and let the winner then stand against the Conservatives.  However, there is a fundamental contradiction in all this "like minded" talk, namely, it suggests synergy, commonality, shared values and goals.  Murray sees progressives coming together, yet still within their own factions, only to then pick one and envisions everyone working behind said individual.  I call that a normal PARTY nomination, in fact Liberals are quite used to competing visions duking it out in the "primary", then rallying behind, DESPITE differing visions based on results.

There is a very clear end game to all these co-operation machinations.  If only truly believes progressive forces are divided, there is this "like minded" demographic currently fractured, then just get on with it and physically become one entity, rather than this bastardized acknowledgement of affinity, yet some symbolic retention of tribal colours.  Politics forever involves compromise, we see this daily as party's ebb and flow with different leadership, all partisan adopt a pragmatic tone to reconcile wavering identity.

Here is the bottom line, dippers will proudly recite all the provincial NDP governments as PROOF socialists can govern effectively.  Trouble is, not ONE provincial NDP government has governed in a socialist manner, every single one is centrist, some bordering on corporatist, some blue Liberals for cripes sake, if you take their legacies in totality.  If anything, all these NDP manifestations that have actually governed serve as proof the far left disappears the moment one is forced to attract widespread support.  We see this reality right now federally, as Tom Mulcair moves the NDP to the center in an effort to capture ultimate power, it's a political necessity, yet partisans will remain steadfast no matter.  

As well, Liberals seem to have no problem getting behind a true left of center leader like Dion, as well as a borderline liberal like Ignatieff.  Liberals compromise personal perspective in the name of the "big tent", which really is a testament to "like minded" people entering a coalition of sorts.  The very fact Liberals are currently "finding themselves" through this leadership race a testament to just how malleable our identity.  Also noteworthy, Dion can speak at a Green Party convention, be well received and nobody follows the logic to obvious conclusion.

I don't believe a merged party translates to simply adding up the math of the various opposition parties, that adoption would bleed some support elsewhere, no question about it.  However, it is also true that had Joan Crockatt faced one opponent, she would have lost, I believe that in my bones.  At the very least, even the cynics must acknowledge the odds are improved with consolidation.

Joyce Murray propose co-operation in a limited number of ridings.  While I support any effort that confronts political silos, unless the concept has full adoption, it will allow special interest manipulation and undo the spirit of the plank.  Again, when we move to the end game, any usage of "like minded" denotes a commonality that can be cultivated into a new entity, which is a compromised manifestation, not much different from current "progressive parties".  It would appear co-operation is nuanced enough to make it palpable to partisans.   But ,really once the process reaches conclusion towards a single candidate, partisans then rally behind, work together, we see the tribes further exposed as ultimately unnecessary.  In fact, the end result of the co-operation angle is no different than what happens in every single riding, for every single nomination meeting, within every single individual party. 

I guess it's a start....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Liberals Can Expect Substantive Leadership Race

With the Liberal leadership race taking shape (Marc Garneau set to announce today), it is becoming apparent, this exercise will be anything but a beauty contest.  One of the criticisms of the NDP leadership race was the "agreeable" factor, apart from Cullen's co-operation idea, there was little divergence of opinion which didn't lend itself to much spirited debate.  Not necessarily a criticism, one could argue Dippers simply know who they are, hence the general unanimity, but in terms of contrast and colour, a pretty benign affair.  However, a review of some early policy positions taken in this Liberal leadership almost guarantees conflicting directions, which should provide substantive debate.

Whether it be Trudeau's somewhat controversial stance on foreign ownership, Murray reintroducing the carbon tax into the mix, as well as the complex arguments around political co-operation, or Hall Findlay's views on supply management, it all congeals into a fairly volatile mix, with much more to come one suspects.  Anyone predicting reaffirmation debates is deluding themselves, the stage is now set for Liberals to partake in a philosophical discussion, that could lead to very divergent paths.  Candidates will be put through their paces, as ideas are challenged, "sacred cows" put up for slaugher, there is the potential to get well beyond platitudes, into the policy weeds that Liberals really need to examine on the "renewal" path. 

Garneau is a man of substance, Murray has staked out some interesting ground, Hall Findlay promises policy planks on an almost weekly basis and Trudeau has given early indications that there is vision beyond the superficial distractions.  Obviously, Justin is the hands down front runner, but the lay of the land suggests he will be put through is paces, divergent positions will demand forceful debate and compelling counters.  There is no leadership cake walk on the horizon, at least in terms of the process.

People were worried if Liberals would actually have an interesting leadership race.  Early indications are shaping up to suggest a very compelling debate about ideas and directions, formidable candidates and divergent paths.  Liberals need a substantive debate, it would appear we are about to have one....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

By-Election Breakdown

- It is up for fair debate whether or not the Trudeau/McGuinty comments cost the Liberal Party the Calgary Center seat.  There is no question Liberals had wind at their back last week, only to hit a brick wall with the damaging quotes.  We will never know the true impact, but with such a slight margin of victory- as well as evidence of a Green uptick in the wake- my opinion is that we had the opportunity and blew it.  That a Liberal victory would have been historic, potentially recalibrating potentials and assumptions, all the more hard to swallow.

-Newly minted Liberal leadership contender Joyce Murray enjoys powerful practical application to support her call for co-operation between the opposition parties.   The Conservatives held Calgary Center by 4.2%, despite the Liberals and Greens combining for 58% of the vote, a fact which should provide sober consideration.  If Stephane Dion can give a speech at a Green Party convention, one has to wonder what all the fuss is really about, once we become colour blind.  I look forward to Murray interjecting the topic into the Liberal leadership race, and hope we examine without the kneejerk reactions, because Stephen Harper is smiling, a shit kicking grin in fact.

-The Green Party are fast becoming a legitimate option in Canadian politics.  In two of the by-elections they were formidable, and came within a whisker of winning another seat.  The biggest hurdle for an upstart party is the credibility gap, the Greens should be encouraged with last night, because by any definition they were real players.  As an aside,  combining all the by-election results,  Greens averaged over 21%  support, as did the Liberals, and the NDP 23%, a testament to how well the party performed.

-Despite almost unprecedented attention, turnout continues to be an issue in Canadian politics, a fact that should be of grave concern to everyone.  Canadians are largely indifferent, apathetic and disengaged, 29% turnout in Calgary, with all the controversy and talk of razor thin results, is downright pathetic and disheartening.  Poor turnout works for the Conservatives most of all, as they do better with the dependable, older voter, which becomes more accentuated with dismal turnout.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Opposition" Needs To Get Its Shit Together

How long will the same depressing theme emerge before somebody advocates FORMAL co-operation, "merger", "non aggression pact" between the opposition?  Another Nanos poll out today reinforces the macro problem, currently manifesting itself in Calgary Center.  Vote splitting is Stephen Harper's best friend, recent polling must make the PMO simply giddy.  Why then would the "opposition" continue on with their narrow tribalism, knowing full well their chief adversary LOVES the status quo?

Joan Crockatt has run a brutal campaign in this by-election.  The only saving grace for the Conservatives in Calgary Center is that opposition remains divided, this reality blunting full impact.  What we are witnessing in this riding is another glaring example of the opposition to Harper voluntarily handicapping itself in the name of tribal pursuit.  Of course there are differences between the various opposition parties, but put side by side with the chasm between themselves and the Conservatives, the inability to find some common understanding is philosophically suspect.

The majority of Canadians don't care about your team, they aren't invested in partisan pissing matches, in fact partisanship is waning within the greater society.   What is true, what we call the "center" in Canadian politics is nothing more than a recognition of where society sits, it shifts, partisans react to it, and truth be told no party can achieve power without mirroring it. 

With full knowledge that moderation is the only path to power, pure ideology is irrelevant, a domain largely reserved to the faithful.  Compromise is a must, and it provides curious bastardizations for partisans, in that they can call still themselves "left wing" and support a center right Gary Doer, just because he carries an orange banner.  You can slag a Dalton McGuinty, yet cheer a Darrell Dexter, even though the policies are largely similar, simply because of the tribal considerations.  You can bash a former NDP Premier, yet support a former Liberal cabinet minister- who places himself inside a boardroom, akin to a CEO, in his first advertisement- just because he's YOUR guy.  You can bash the Liberals on takeovers, yet turn a blind eye to changing opposition to trade deals, because it's your team and that's all that matters.  What is also true, the greater populous could care less about the philosophical pretzels partisans turn ourselves into to, they just want solutions and visions.

The polling is clear, in the absence of a complete Liberal meltdown, the NDP will be hard pressed to defeat the Conservatives.  The polls also show that under optimal conditions the Liberals actually have a chance, but put into the realm of probabilities, you are right back at another probable Harper mandate. 

The Conservatives have a 30-35% base of support that is unwavering, dependable and committed to vote.  Within the current political makeup, this government need not appeal to much beyond this base, secure in the knowledge two thirds of us are relatively irrelevant to their personal fortunes.  This reality creates a narrowly focused government, one that fails to achieve consensus, or even cares for that matter.  A divided opposition not only secures power, it also dictates how that power is yielded and notions of true democracy suffer as a result.

Liberals and the NDP, as well as Greens, can dream about ideal scenarios that bring them to power.  There are real avenues to power, but there are also many more practical outcomes that deliver nothing to either, except another mandate for this government, despite a vast majority wishing their ouster.  There is something fundamentally wrong with the current state of Canadian politics, and once we dispense with ego and sporting interests, understand that the path to power for all opposition parties is staking moderate ground, the notions of co-operation become not just desirable but entirely logical.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Calgary By-Election Has National Consequence

What is currently happening in Calgary Center is nothing new, in fact we are simply witnessing a tried and true Conservative election tactic.  Joan Crockatt is skipping debates, just like pretty much every Conservative candidate has in recent elections.  Perhaps the only difference, FINALLY someone- namely the popular mayor of Calgary- has cried foul and drawn much needed attention to an issue which truly impacts our democratic process.  The resulting controversy has morphed a sleepy by-election in the strongest of Conservative strongholds into a referendum on accountability and our political debate.

This by-election will have profound national implications.  One could argue, even a close result could reset certain assumptions.   But, an outright upset in fortress Calgary, would rewrite the Conservative political playbook, to the betterment of democracy.  Should we see Crockatt lose or win by a whisker, the Conservatives will be forced to rethink the standard practice of having their candidates shun most debates, participating in the bare minimum, secure in the knowledge that the practice has little real impact on voting preference.  If Crockatt wins handily, cynical Conservatives will fall back on the idea that controversy is inflated, social media kerfuffle doesn't equate to real world consequence.

Debates are a primary vehicle to put candidates through their paces, articulate their philosophy and see how they perform relative to their opponents.  Having attended many of these local debates- particularly ones with specific focus- you realize the inherent substance, people are forced to go beyond platitudes and talking points, at least if they wish to be effective in swaying voters.  Whether these debates have real impact- outside of mostly engaged voters who actually attend- is debatable, and herein lies the potential importance of the Calgary Center result.  Voters there have the opportunity to reject a playbook which actually gives the finger to accountability, further computes relative apathy and assumes the process can be manipulated with little impact. 

If Crockatt actually manages to blow Calgary Center, voters will have fundamentally altered what is acceptable and expected from our political candidates.  Not only will Calgary Center voters do their riding a favour, but impact the entire democratic process in this country, in a way that is clearly positive, if you actually believe accountability SHOULD be a given.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trudeau Brings Liberals Up To Speed

If Justin Trudeau becomes Liberal leader, the party will finally return to sensibility on marijuana.  Further, Liberals will actually offer a truly progressive vision of ultimate legalization, never mind decriminalization.  Fact is, the Canadian public is way ahead of the politicians on marijuana, so both on liberal principles AND electoral upside, Trudeau makes complete sense:
“I think we have to recognize first and foremost that the war on drugs, as it exists right now, doesn’t work,” said Trudeau, adding that the current system puts criminal records on Canadians who consume the drug, while also allowing criminal organizations to profit from the prohibition.
“So I am a huge supporter of decriminalization.”
However, Trudeau added that the next step to look at would be legalization. This would take marijuana profits away from criminal organizations and allow the government to tax and regulate the drug.

Trudeau added that regulating the drug would mean keeping it away from children, since individuals would have to demonstrate ID before purchasing marijuana.

“(Because) you guys aren’t allowed to buy cigarettes or booze either. Because it’s not good for you,” he added.

The last national poll on marijuana found two thirds of Canadians support decriminalization of marijuana, highlighting that we are ready for the political conversation.  As well, when you consider where the Liberals need to "grow" to become relevant again, the fact that 75% of British Columbians support outright legalization, the same direction alluded to by Trudeau, you have a political home run.  Cynics will scoff that people won't vote based on marijuana, and while that may be true, a progressive stance does help give the Liberal Party shape, identity, not to mention ink.  Factor in a NDP lead Mulcair and their tentative position, I see opportunity, beyond the simple practicalities.

The public is ready, there is an economic/tax argument to be made, Trudeau's stance brings the Liberals up to speed.  With recent votes in the United States, there is the additional legitimacy that counters the usual fears of American reprisals.  It is nice to see Trudeau not only supporting decriminalization, but go further and make the argument that outright legalization is the practical end game.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Real Deal

If anyone doubts Barack Obama is a politician for all the right reasons, this video should clear that up.  The real deal:

You're lucky to have him America.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Voters Are Superficial

Every election, there is the requisite story wherein the journalist speaks to voters to ascertain what issues are important to them.  Normally this exercise confirms that we voters are sophisticated, this perception furthered by the other election novelty staple, the "focus group" segment.  While it is true that many of us do vote based on a series of issue based considerations, the SAD reality is political consideration just isn't that deep, in fact it's painfully superficial and fickle.

The latest federal polls are stunning in one sense, not so much when one considers the political landscape.  With the addition of one prominent face to the brand, the Liberals go from afterthought, a media death watch, to juggernaut, even the absurd prospect of a majority government.  Nobody knows a single real policy, nobody has crunched any numbers, nobody knows anything but lineage and hair, and yet....  

In reality, not particularly surprising the latest batch of polls.  After all, this is a country that just saw the "orange wave" roll across a province despite candidates not even in their bloody ridings, despite no real digestion of anything beyond the proverbial CHANGE mantra.  Everyone else has screwed it up, this guy with the mustache is likable, lets give him the keys.  Sad, overly simplistic, but almost entirely true.

Policy is important, but really it is just some concrete backdrop to basic appeal and resonance.  Liberals have confronted the perception wall with past leaders, no matter what we were armed with, it mattered not without a compelling figurehead.   One important caveat, if the electorate is so fed up with the current regime then a stiff can lead his party to power (you do the math).

This Trudeau wave may well be temporary, but it is still quite instructive in understanding just how easily wide swaths of voters can move, given the most basic of considerations.  The results also suggest that should Trudeau manage to stay within the lines, develop some basic slogan talking points on a host of issues, the Liberals can benefit from a largely shallow electorate.  Factor in a conduit that lacks focus and sustained depth on any issue, it all congeals into a pretty pedestrian political landscape that caters and rewards buzzwords, soundbites and photogenic appeal.

The latest "seismic" change in Canadian politic is further illustration that those of us politically engaged forever over analyze, which prevents a true understanding of the "real world" as it stands.  Fact is voters are pretty darn superficial, let us proceed with that knowledge.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Messiah Cometh

When the latest Nanos poll came out showing a resurgent Liberal Party, it showed a strong uptick in Ontario and British Columbia.  Strangely absent from the Nanos Trudeaumania party was Quebec- numbers essentially flat -which I found a little odd to be honest.  However, along comes the Quebec "gold standard" poll CROP and we see the Trudeau effect, the Liberals stunningly surge to first place in the province:
Justin Trudeau led Liberals emerge from the abyss it reached the last federal election. At 36%, he would arrive first in Quebec, the NDP (30%), the Bloc Quebecois (19%) and the Conservative Party (11%).
Without Trudeau the Liberals are at 20%, an uptick from past polling, but he brings an additional 16% when his name is attached to the brand.  What is perhaps most concerning for the NDP, Justin isn't an unknown in the province, the same previous arguments I made for Liberal concern with Mulcair's popularity can be applied here.  In other words, shiny new toy doesn't quite digest where Trudeau may stand in his home province, Quebecers know him, they know him well.  A snapshot in time, many assumptions made, Trudeau isn't leader of anything at the moment, but still, the polls do show Justin is a potential game changer in every sense of the word.

The three most important provinces in the next election are unquestionably Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.  The fact that we now see interesting evidence of a Liberal wave in all these provinces, simply seismic.   These numbers will only solidify Trudeau and bring more support within Liberal ranks, everyone loves a messiah!  For other leadership contenders, the gradient gets more daunting, the perception becomes reality, Trudeau is a rock star.

Be afraid.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ontario's Prorogation Stench

As the dust settles on McGuinty's shocking resignation announcement, the pungent stench of his prorogation decision remains.  It is unclear if there are long term ramifications for a clearly unpopular move, particularly with a new leader coming, the Liberals may be able to bookend the whole affair.  That said, with many potential successors defending the decision, this prorogation could haunt the Liberals moving forward.

About the only notable Liberal I've heard come out strongly against this unnecessary prorogation is Gerard Kennedy.  I've heard a few commentators float cynical motivations, but let's not forget this is the same person who went to Bob Rae during the 11th hour when everyone knew Ignatieff had it game, set and match, only because he felt democratic expression was a casualty.  In other words, Gerard Kennedy tends to lead with his principles first, political calculations second, I take his words as sincere concern.  Within that vein, the fact Kennedy remains a lonely voice questioning the wisdom, disappointing, considering many Liberals went apocalyptic (self included) when other governments have abused prorogation.

Liberals can split hairs and offer various justifications to distinguish this particular prorogation.  Of course each instance is unique, and perhaps in terms of degree the Harper Conservatives have no peer.  However, there are some fundamental points that remain, the same ones federal Liberals RAN on in the last election, the same basic tenets we got red faced about when our political rival shut down the democratic process.

McGuinty's decision reduces the Ontario Legislature to a body which serves at his whim, forever secondary to the personal machinations and political ambitions of the Premier.  Perhaps the system is set up as such, but the way government's now use prorogation a complete bastardization of original intent.  The work done in Committee's, the policies debated, the laws working through the process, all these things are BIGGER than the Premier.  Ontarians have elected representatives who are now rendered impotent and irrelevant because a man took a walk in the snow and sees no political advantage to let democracy breathe.  How can any democrat remain silent on this front, how can we rationalize further decay that confronts notions of egalatarianism and confronts the people's voice?

McGuinty made a very astute and sound decision to resign at this time, there is no question in my mind his regime was past its best before date.  There are many things the McGuinty government did that people can be proud of, but all that is sullied with this final decision.  McGuinty leaves with an air of arrogance, real or perceived irrelevant, prorogation roundly unpopular.  McGuinty has given rivals the high ground, while simultaneously leaving other members of his government offering the lamest of excuses to justify.  As well, federal Liberals are left running for the exits, not wanting to confront the naked hypocrisy that surely exists the moment they comment on this particular prorogation.  I can only imagine the contortions the next time Harper prorogues, neutered Liberals are lost.  In fact, this whole affair makes one wonder just what all the kerfuffle was about, all the speeches, the indignation, the holier than thou rants about supremacy of Parliament, the people's will, the business of the nation, blah, blah, blah.

In the final analysis, the selective outrage is perhaps instructive when trying to ascertain why Liberals currently sit where we do....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debate Thoughts

"We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them,” Obama

Monday, October 15, 2012

McGuinty OUT

I'll simply go back to my post this time last year, that was openly ridiculed.  Knowing when to leave, on  your own terms, appreciating the true landscape, is a rare trait:

McGuinty Should Step Aside


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Pay Little Attention To The Pundits On Trudeau

Well not all of the pundits- some actually have a healthy nose for the street- but in general the commentary is self indulgent blather that offers little in the way of true guidance as to ultimate success or failure.

Here is what we know to date, much of it instructive moving forward.  As  Susan Delacourt points out, the hyper coverage surrounding Trudeau isn't media driven, it's audience driven, Justin sells copy.  This acknowledgement is of no surprise, particularly for Liberals who have used Trudeau as a primary fundraising vehicle for some time now, Justin brings in the people.  Further evidence of this fact this week, the Trudeau campaign roll out has featured packed houses and overflow crowds.

There is a unique attractive quality to Trudeau which conventional wisdom doesn't quite compute when opining about "must do's".  In other words, talk of "coronations", "messiahs" hurting Liberal fortunes are really irrelevant, Canadians ultimately could care less about process, so long as they find the end product attractive.  Truth be told, most Canadians aren't intimately knowledgeable about past Liberal transgressions, put a fresh coat of paint on and a new face with appeal, nobody will devote ten seconds to discussion about a short circuited leadership.   The leadership race is important because we deserve a healthy debate about ideas, we deserve to see Justin put through his paces and ascertain fitness. But, ultimately, when the dust settles, it will matter not to the general public how we arrived at "Liberal leader Justin Trudeau" when it comes time to vote in a general election.

Quite a bit of surprise at a poll yesterday which shows the Liberals under Trudeau rocketing to 36% support nationally, even more double takes at the Liberals over 40% in Quebec.  Anyone expressing shock has failed to acknowledge a core underlying narrative in Canadian politics, one that has existed for years.  Canadians YEARN for something different, we CRAVE anything that resembles a departure from politics as usual, our INDIFFERENCE is really a testament to DISGUST.  Within that vein, I am not surprised in the least Trudeau fires up Liberal numbers, particularly in Quebec have we not just seen how the electorate desires a changed landscape?   Perhaps we can argue an empty vessel at this point, we can scoff at superficial reactions, but to do so forgets other "waves" and the simple mechanics that create them.  In other words, let us not get lost in advice from the political class, it rarely sees any swell coming because it is detached from the subject matter.

Nobody knows if Justin thrives or dives, he will be the master of his own destiny.  That said, it is important to pierce through the likely daily dissection of every machination, there are underlying drivers which will trump over reactions and irrelevant concerns.  The Canadian political climate is ripe for a new movement, particularly younger demographics, the current malaise a testament to a failed status quo.  Should people find something to cling to, under the added bonus banner of good looks and charisma, so be it, it surely wouldn't be the first time such a manifestation has brought electoral success.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Trudeau Swims Into A Superficial World

Much of the Justin Trudeau chatter amongst the "political class" is focused on the style vs substance question, pretty hair meets concrete policy.  While I completely agree that Trudeau must demonstrate some policy chops- particularly on the economy- I find the discussion a bit detached from reality, even more curious given past experience.

Begin with a simple fact: Canadian politics are as deep as a bird bath, packaging trumps substance every single time.  Political geeks may yearn for depth, but what is presented to ordinary Canadians by political parties and the media that covers is largely simplistic, superficial, soundbite, catchphrase TRIPE.  To then demand serious policy wonk articulation from Trudeau is to forget the current climate, which is why I find the "bar" being set for success an esoteric discussion, with little relevance to real world Canadians.

Trudeau must articulate a vision for Canada, Trudeau must have an economic agenda that comes with appeal, Trudeau must look competent and display leadership qualities.  Beyond these generalizations, perhaps superseding, Trudeau must be packaged and sold, like a commodity.   Today, I hear soundbites from Trudeau's speech last night, a snappy line all that is required to convey a positive tone.  Trudeau loves Canada, delivered with authenticity, right there a passing grade for an introductory speech, if one incorporates all the other intangibles that make Justin attractive.   The Conservatives have mastered the 5 second soundbite, facts and stats secondary, so why then do pundits look for something deeper when analyzing Trudeau's "challenges"?

We currently have a government in power that has ran on a couple banner ideas, marketed like a product, tight messaging, repetitive themes, all within the domain of that film that resides at the top of any pond.  Nobody gets their hair wet in Canadian politics, in fact it is dangerous to offer in depth policy, it allows for retort, attacks, much better to run on hope and slick packaging.  Again, we political geeks may hunger for more, but the reality is all this talk about Trudeau needing to display great policy depth is pure bunk, cobble together a generalized vision, offer up some detail in a "red book" and sell it.

Above all, whether Trudeau succeeds or fails will depend on his ability to CONNECT.  Within that reality, how the Liberal team sells the man, how it packages the general vision, how it creates a constituency that ultimately brings success, both in terms of leadership and potentially beyond.  If Canadians like Justin, it will be more important than deep intellectual arguments concerning substance.  Not a statement on right or wrong, just a recognition of the modern political machine, which also understands there is much to "work with" with Justin Trudeau.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ottawa Is A Disgrace

The current carbon tax "debate" in Parliament is absolutely pathetic, an embarrassing display, which serves to highlight why Canadians have tuned out to the utterly useless machinations of Ottawa.  Excellent Simpson column which details the Conservative hypocrisy, but alas just another call to accountability that will be completely ignored.  Truth be told, unless media puts front page banners that read "CONSERVATIVES LYING TO CANADIANS" in obscene font, nothing will change, even then I wonder.  The Conservatives have cracked the code, successfully imputed voter disinterest and realized you can say anything, with little consequence.  Worse still, downright lying has political upside, it works to advantage.

Currently we have certain rules that govern Parliamentary "conduct", but we lack a full on Code of Ethics.  It is becoming increasingly clear that we need some measure of accountability that sanctions claims that have no basis in truth.  There should be some provision that demands,at the very least, any argument put forth have a factual basis.   Beyond points of view, differing interpretations of statistics, certain beliefs, something that address downright FABRICATIONS that mislead Canadians.  We have laws regarding all kinds of disinformation, whether it be advertising claims or personal liability, boldly lying and making outlandish baseless allegations aren't sanctioned by society.  Why then is our Parliamentary system below this standard, why is a body that is supposedly a place of such high standards a laggard in terms of certain accountability?

I can barely stomach following Ottawa anymore- and I'm a politically junkie- so turned off by the back and forth bullshit, it's maddening, exhausting and frankly not worth the time.  It hasn't "always been this way" in Ottawa, unless one lacks any capacity for notions of degree, emphasis, frequency, the shrug of the shoulders mentality part of the problem.  We need real accountability measures that ELEVATE this cesspool, regain some confidence with Canadians, a regime that forces logical debates, rather than one that actually rewards dishonesty.

Everyone agrees, this "carbon tax" debate is an utter farce.  Rather than fall back on simplistic notions that voters must hold to account, we have our say, some recognition that politicians have GAMED a busy electorate, who simply doesn't have the time to babysit, nor inclined to care, given the absurdities on display daily.  No, we need a strict Code of Ethics that comes with real consequences, we deserve something better than current reality.  People of all political stripes should want higher standards, let us debate on merit, rather than a conversation none of us would tolerate in our own homes, workplace, circle of friends.  The reality right now is simply intolerable, more correctly disturbing.


Must be disgusted DAY


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Liberals Should Revisit Carbon Tax

Almost absurd to even suggest, given the Conservatives are currently accusing the NDP of advocating, even though the party doesn't support a carbon tax, a testament to how some see the mere mention as politically advantageous.  However, if one delves deep into the problems that have plagued the Liberal Party of Canada, a "rethink" on abandoning the carbon tax idea is warranted.

In an effort to be all things to everyone, the Liberals have ended up being no things to nobody.  Other parties take strong stances, and while they alienate, they also build up a core, devoted base.  In addition, there is a certain authenticity in the idea of standing behind a principle.   For instance, the NDP and Conservatives both hold certain ideals that don't necessarily translate to majority support, and yet they have cobbled together formidable coalitions.   What is the Liberal constituent?  More and more, a wishy washy "middle" ground, which is entirely practical but hardly conveys any moxy or distinguishing quality.

The carbon tax is sound economic and environmental policy. The carbon tax has already been implemented successfully in Canada.  The carbon tax has the support of the very people that will be most affected, the oil and gas industry.   Most of all, support of a carbon tax is a philosophical commitment that speaks to a core commitment, across a host of files.  

As well, a carbon tax is considered politically toxic given what happened to the Liberals in 2008, and for that reason complete taboo.   The mere mention of the word within Liberal circles sends us scrambling for the exits, we can't distance ourselves fast enough.   That said, the party is still associated with the Liberals, mention carbon tax and you immediately make the connection.  With this reality in mind, when Liberals pledge they no longer support what they previously did- with passion I might add- it rings hollow, people assume we are still "closet" carbon tax proponents.   So, we have a double negative, the spectre of underlying support, as well as the perception that we don't stand for anything, afraid to stick our necks out, cowering in the face of controversy.  Herein lies the entire problem with the good ship Liberal.

If you want to deal with GHG's, then a carbon tax is an effective way to curb emissions, as well as reward cleaner energy sources, it is a transformational regime.  Rather than retreat in the name of political expediency, a fighting party doubles down on an idea that speaks to conviction.  In addition, given current humble realities, the Liberals are "free" in a sense to redefine their constituency and stand firm.  I will always find it amusing that we Liberals can champion a key policy with committed zeal, then suddenly turn our backs in the name of fear and calculations.  Did we really believe in a carbon tax?  Did we knock on doors and emotionally defend the idea in the name of conviction, what we felt was right for the economy and society?  If you answered yes, then that is the bottom line and we should continue the fight, because we believe it is just and necessary.   This isn't to dismiss the very real problems with easy "TAX, TAX, TAX" soundbites, only that it comes down to a question of policy convenience or real commitment.

I'd rather go down fighting for true ideals, then devote myself to some party of appeasement, reactive rather than steadfast.  If the carbon tax is something you genuinely support, if it addresses certain core problems in the most effective way, then you don't abandon in the name of political calculation, you plant your feet and stand firm.  If that is the Liberal attitude, I assure we will be ultimately rewarded, because in the end we will be a party with a clear identity and purpose.

This is one Liberal that still PROUDLY supports a carbon tax and will welcome any leadership candidate that has the stones to push the discussion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Desperate Romney Cements "Not Ready For Prime Time"

Below Mitt Romney waves goodbye to The White House:

There are certain moments in a campaign that speak to character, fitness and above all judgement.  The manner in which the Romney "team" has chosen to react to the events in Libya illustrate with almost perfect clarity why he will never become President.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trudeau Isn't A Lock

Will Justin be incredibly formidable and the immediate front runner? Does Trudeau have the capacity to suck up all the oxygen in the room? Will the media fixate on every machination, amplifying any support and creating a "and the rest" flavour to the leadership race?  You can answer yes to all questions and still argue that Justin Trudeau is anything but a lock to win the Liberal leadership. 

I note certain pundits who are routinely wrong (and yet still opine with unwarranted swagger)  have already declared the race over before it starts.  Given past track records, these assertions only confirm what we already know,  namely having a column and having a clue aren't necessarily one in the same.  This amusing "will they ever learn" dynamic aside, one of the cardinal rules in politics, there are no sure things, particularly when it comes to a contest of such length, with so many variables.

I believe Justin will be the front runner in the Liberal leadership, everyone can agree on this point.  However, in many respects the leadership will act as prolonged test, wherein everyone scrutinizes every development, stumbles highlighted and ABOVE all an intense desire to actually have a RACE.  What this reality means, the same people who are coronating now will TURN hard on Trudeau at first opportunity, tear down, dissect, essentially act as a well paid negative ad campaign.  It happens every time, build you up, tear you down, then perhaps a rehabilitation should a race actually emerge.  An astute observation from Rob Silver: 
 “I have a funny feeling that the two opposition parties and the media won’t allow it to be a cakewalk, regardless of who else is running,” he said.
Cakewalks are boring, we want a race dammit and should Trudeau look insurmountable, expect every effort to undo that momentum.  Factor in the reality that Justin speaks his mind, I expect plenty of fodder and exaggeration when the inevitable turn comes from the same people who have already warmed the throne.  In many ways coverage of leadership races is more a study of human nature than a debate about ideas.
If the race evolves into a test of leadership, wherein the assumptions are made with Trudeau and were merely watch, put him through his chops, ascertain if the "meddle" is apparent, then we still have a contest.  Within this angle, whomever emerges as primary challenger will be poised correctly should things snowball and Liberals, supporters have concerns about fitness and performance.  To a lesser degree, the 2006 leadership run of Michael Ignatieff serves as an example of why the RACE itself is key, early assumptions just that.
Trudeau is a force, Trudeau has the je ne sais quoi, people will fawn, his light will shine brightest, all realities moving forward.  Another reality, anybody who thinks this race is a lock, at this stage, isn't a very good student of politics or history.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Obama Receives The "Bounce"

I'm not sure what is worse news for Republicans, the fact their convention delivered ZIP in the way of bounce for Romney, or what appears to be a marked uptick for Obama after a very successful Democratic convention.  Given Romney needed to "sell" himself to Americans, "appear human", that the GOP convention failed to move numbers at all is probably the more concerning. Convention bounces are normal, and for the challenger, conventions offer one of the pivotal moments to "connect".  It would appear, as the dust settles, Obama will be the only receiving a bounce, now it's just a question of degree.

Prior to the start of the Dem convention, the right leaning Rasmussen had Romney with a one point edge.  Compared with other polls, you routinely see Rasmussen with a decided GOP lean, it's been that way for years.  What is instructive isn't the lean, but the comparison over time within a certain methodology.  This morning we received the first full post-convention rolling poll from Rasmussen and it shows a 4 point Obama lead, astronomical by their standards, a full 5 point change since the convention began. 

Gallup, which tends to be more in line with other polling runs a 7 day rolling poll, so we still haven't gauged the full impact of the convention.  Using yesterday's release though, we see a marked uptick for Obama, now 4 points, with still more bounce digestion to come in subsequent days.  As well- and perhaps more telling- Obama's approval ratings have now shot up to 52%, the highest level he has enjoyed since after the Bin Laden raid, a spike worthy of consideration.   The Ipsos firm also shows a favorable Obama move, it is fair to say the bounce is real and outside any margin of error.

Perhaps a good time to consider Kinsella's scathing column on the fixation of polls.  Kinsella is spot on with many of criticisms.  However there is still room to "gauge" with some sense of confidence if one confines themselves to trend moves within a certain poll, merely as validation of move, not necessarily confirmation of actual voter intent.  Within that characterization we can ascertain things such as "bounce", fairly conclude the Democratic convention went well for Obama and he is benefiting.  That doesn't mean Obama is in the clear, that most certainly doesn't address the fickleness of soft support (for my money where pollsters get burned bad), but it does give us a sense of a moment in time.

Forgetting the polls, I did predict a Obama bounce the last night of the campaign, based on my perceptions of that convention.  Night one, you had Michelle get RAVE reviews from all quarters, a terrific tone set.  The second night, Clinton delivered an incredibly effective defence of Obama, everyone agrees his speech was a rousing success.  The last night Obama once again reinforced his reputation as an amazing orator, so it is hardly surprising to assume an impact.  Factor in very good ratings relative to the GOP, and we expect some bounce.

The GOP convention didn't move numbers, any positive impact to Romney's reputations was minimal, he now looks to the debates for the next "big" opportunity.  The Dem convention delivered as intended, so the GOP failure is that much more pronounced, no counter effect present, no "saw off" when the dust settles.

Conventions over, advantage Barack.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Quebec Election: Best Case Scenario

If you accept the premise that governments have a shelf life, then last night's result in Quebec represents the best case scenario for the "rest of Canada".  Leaders rarely volunteer retirement, fact is the attachment to power means most are forced out rather than taking the graceful exit route.  With that reality in mind, the Quebec Liberals survived- they can now cleanse and retool- while the Parti Quebocois operates under a very tight leash, with an entirely underwhelming mandate.

Quebecers clearly wanted change, but it is very telling that despite this sentiment the PQ couldn't manage a third of the vote, less than 1% more than the Liberals, only 4 seats ahead.  If the Jean Charest Liberals are tired and spent, then the Parti Quebecois looks decidedly stale as a favorable option.  

Marois has no mandate to push ahead with a referendum, never mind force legislation that leads to a less inclusive Quebec.  In fact, the PQ faces a solid majority who will block any intimation, both in terms of seat count and the clear raw vote message sent by voters.  Plow ahead on sovereignty at your own peril, there is no appetite for the PQ road map. 

The Quebec Liberals were never going to reign forever, the natural flip was inevitable.  That said, this "change" is very much a paper tiger, a precarious mandate that will blunt a sizable lurch.  Charest lost his seat, further he has lost the confidence of the electorate, the Quebec Liberals need some fresh faces to appear a viable option again.  The good news, the Liberals remain a large presence, the road back less daunting that could otherwise be expected.  As well, federalist forces dwarfed the separatist options, this result is anything but a alarming result for Canadian unity.  You could well posit the PQ's unyielding commitment to a referendum nobody wants is what prevented a much larger victory, as well as more pronounced defeat for the Charest Liberals.

Obviously, any PQ government is not "good news" in the wider sense.  However, under the circumstances, with an eye to historical context, the nature of government, the ebb and flow under the guise of "change", last night represents a fairly solid result for the Canadian federation.   There will be plenty of bluster and provocation from the PQ, but little in the way of concrete erosion under this current configuration.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trudeau Running

A well placed source, deep within the bowels of the Liberal inner sanctum, has provided me with the following which serves to confirm the rumors:

Of note, the above shows no visible signs of photoshopping.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Fear Enbridge

I'm not worried about eco terrorism, as much as I'm worried about companies that actively try to DECEIVE the public:

Enbridge fantasy world:

A place called EARTH:

How can anyone believe one word of assurances from these people when they can't even show the slightest honesty in their portrayal?  I fear Enbridge.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Is Canada A Failed State?

The mere mention of tinkering with the Canadian Constitution generally brings shrieks and dismissals.  A posture borne from past experience, suggestion of reopening seen as reckless and dangerous.   I don't want to rehash all the sound arguments for not revisiting- I appreciate the history- but at the same time this position is also tantamount to endorsing a stale, outdated status quo, basic acceptance of a forever flawed country.

There will never be a "good" time to reopen the Constitution, which means Canada is essentially stuck in time, we can never modernize or update, evolve or become contemporary.  No, the cautionary disposition amounts to paralysis, as well as an admission that the current amending system is unworkable.  As an example, have a discussion of the role of the monarchy and the bottom line always becomes, "well you can't change it anyway".

Re-opening the Constitution is seen as potentially breaking up the country, again the historical context a clear illustration.  However, I would submit that the country is drifting apart anyway, rather than the sound and fury that accompanies cconstitutional wranglings, we have the "slow burn", almost imperceptible, but with the perspective of time, the drift is quite clear and equally alarming.  Canadians simply don't discuss what type of Canada they want for the future, we simply let sleeping dogs lie, which allows for a delusional sense of calm.  Support for separation in Quebec is low, and somehow that equates to a strong federation, when really disengagement and narrow regional perspectives have probably never been more pronounced.  Factor in increasing agitations elsewhere in the federation, outright acrimony and disdain for our fellow Canadians, and I believe the calm in Canada is a mirage, reality is uglier and alarming.

I read some comments from Danny Williams, in relation the current pipeline battle and the larger question of maximizing benefits for ALL Canadians, a more unified approach and shared perspective.  Are we all in this together, or is this country merely a series of fiefdoms that actually sees other Canadians as "them" in a sense.   Unfortunately, this national pride we feel at events like the Olympics gloss over regional dislikes and outright disdain, perhaps we can work together beyond sporting events.

Anyone who lives or has lived "out west" can appreciate the regularity with which you hear eastern bashing, almost required articulation, identity through mutual dislike, the psychology is fascinating.   The reversal is also true, to the point of almost universal animosity, bashing is national past time, finding commonality through a common "other".   A gigantic geographic country requires many tethers to maintain cohesion, and yet the current set up demands Premiers create outside threats to solidify their own base, slagging Ottawa a primary political tactic to garner approval.  Without a strong national counter, things are out of balance and you have a country which is a bit of a fraud when you appreciate the real animosities that exist and persist.

It's about time some entity articulates a national discussion, Canadians desperately needs to speak about our common vision moving forward, there is a fundamental vacuum which needs a champion.  Rather than ignore the situation, balk at any suggestion of modernizing the federation, we shouldn't fear a philosophical debate that speaks to the nature of a society.  Either we revisit, or we are forever shackled in a suspended state.  To ignore is to watch the country drift further and further apart, until we reach a state where affinity is a quaint ideal, but practically a thin veneer.  To my mind, there is just as much "risk" to the federation with the status quo, as there is with challenging current mindsets and allocations.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oil May Well Destroy Canada

A fairly devastating economic analysis of the oil sands "benefits" as it relates to the federation.  Despite the continual sales pitch that oil sands development is of great benefit to all Canadians, the report finds an Alberta windfall of biblical proportions, with other provinces left with "scraps":
TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL, the largest of the three lines, will bring the most benefit to Alberta thanks to oil-sands development, CERI said. It will add $121-billion in incremental tax revenue over 25 years, while Ontario will receive $6-billion, and $2-billion will end up in B.C. Gateway, on the other hand, will add $73-billion to Alberta’s coffers, $4-billion in Ontario, and $1-billion in B.C.

Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain expansion effort would translate into $60-billion in incremental tax revenue for Alberta, with Ontario and B.C. again left with scraps. Meanwhile, existing pipelines are expected to add $298-billion to Alberta’s pockets, with $15-billion to Ontario and $5-billion to B.C.
Now factor in so called "MILD" dutch disease, which is acknowledged, and you have any upside basically negated for a province like Ontario.  Of course we must factor in equalization payments, but the point is quite clear, when it comes to oil sands development grand inequalities exist.  That Gateway will add SEVENTY THREE times more revenue to Alberta than B.C. really an indictment of the Canadian federation as it stands.

This report again obliterates the notion that Canadian future prosperity is largely tied to oil sands development.  In fact, if these numbers hold true, the obscene disparities will only further fracture Canadian commonality.  The numbers also suggest a national energy strategy proposed by Alberta is really a mechanism to appease the rest of Canada while the province sets itself apart, as though on another tier.  I make no apologies for the notion that a country should see benefits for all its citizenry, which is why I find our constitutional framework outdated and frankly insulting to an ideal surrounding a "greater good" mentality.

Critics argue B.C. is holding Alberta hostage with its unprecedented demands.  While political opportunism is part of the equation, there does exist a fundamental philosophical argument, that really speaks to a generosity, not withstanding agreements made two centuries ago.  Fact is, B.C. are challenging the constitution in a non direct fashion, natural resources aren't neat boxes that solely fall within a provincial jurisdiction and as such require a wider perspective.  If we view ourselves as Canadians first- provinces a secondary identity- than there is nothing particularly offensive about shared benefits, particularly when calculating political risks.

I believe we are entering a long protracted battle that will dominate the federation for years to come.  On the one hand, other provinces lamenting disparity, which will further irritate Alberta.  On the other, I see a developing sense of isolation from Albertans and ever growing succession considerations as money pours in, the narrow greed perspective takes hold, acrimony leading to more pronounced fractures.  In other words, this debate could well tear the country apart, particularly as disparities become more advanced, the practical manifestations plan to the naked eye, human nature being what it is.

What this report highlights is that British Columbia has a very fundamental point, as well as justification for any hesitations coming from places like Ontario.  As well, the sales pitch we routinely hear to sell the oil sands to the "rest" of Canada looks paltry and very much like scraps.  Never mind a national energy strategy, perhaps it is time to ponder the unthinkable, natural resources as the property of all Canadians.  Insane, unworkable, a non starter, but really if Canada is a modern entity, a common sense consideration. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Canada Requires A Unifying Force

In the absence of defining moments, it is sometimes hard to ascertain incremental drift.  There is a certain subtlety to Canada's federation unravelling that tends to undermine the true severity.  For instance, in Quebec separatist polling allows for some superficial sense of "calm", when really a growing indifference and internalization threatens any affinity.  Again, without succession votes or constitutional wranglings, people are allowed to adopt a false sense of overall health, when really there is a inward retreat and an overarching desire to simply be left alone.  Enter a federal government that voluntarily abdicates the traditional role of overarching unifying force, and you have the mirage of "peace".

I agree with almost everything B.C. Premier Christy Clark had to say in her op-ed relating to the pipeline.  I also believe her new found stance is craven, naked political opportunism, more about political survival than sincere conviction.  However, it is simply comical the way some commentary expects a narrow self interest to champion a higher calling.  In reality, Clark is a creature of the system, she is playing to her constituency, representing her province, protecting her interests.  Expecting anything more from Clark is to seek the exception not the rule, Canadian democracy is such that her state is a natural one.  The counterbalance to narrow provincial stances is supposed to be the blanket perspective of the federal government, but again we lack that crucial ingredient and are left to meander.

More and more, provinces operate as defacto countries.  I'm an Albertan, I'm a Ontarian, I'm a proud British Columbian, etc...  The regional pride is really at the expense of the collective whole, as one sense rises, the overall affinity to something big wanes, make no mistake about it.  Without a real voice to challenge and think of something wider, we will identify with the advocates who speak to a more confined "backyard".  Premiers are "standing up" for their constituents and all are quick to contrast with Ottawa, as though some foreign bogeyman bent on undermining prosperity.  The oldest game in Canada, but also a very dangerous mentality that ultimately fractures. 

The Harper model essentially sees the federal counterbalance as a nuance, the "firewall" mentality permeates many decisions.  In some regards, Canada is interference, Canada is a distant government that doesn't necessarily represent, nor does it have the capacity to adequately speak to regional issues, much better to let the locals have greater latitude.  The trouble with this mentality, it creates a vacuum, it actually believes people beholden to subsets can articulate a wider vision.  Politicians are only accountable to their voters, to expect some noble pursuit outside of their fiefdom is to seek rarity and with that practical folly.  We can criticize Clark, but Redford is no different, even the floated national energy initiative is simply a vehicle to help grow Alberta's wealth, nothing more, nothing less.

Here's a thought borne of sheer madness, perhaps a true national energy strategy adopts the notion that natural resources are for the benefit of all Canadians, equally and fully.  I know, the horror of the suggestion, how dare one posit an actual national approach to provincial affairs, but really if everyone isn't "invested" in certain economic realities, then you will have opposing viewpoints.  Yes, B.C is taking most of the risk and little reward, but perhaps the perspective would be different if the reward was national in scope.  Rather than these complicated arguments about "spin offs" and worker migrations, equalization payments, if resources were the property of ALL Canadians, then a more Canadian perspective would surely emerge.  Instead, we live in a country of "ours", we play us vs them all too often, we lack any cohesion or commonality that binds, we really are a mirage of an entity. 

It's all fine, if we want loosely affiliated provinces- as Trudeau lamented- but if you believe societal evolution involves greater accommodations and common ground, then Canada has it backward.  Are we forever shackled by our Constitution, can it never change, is this Canada's permanent state until it ultimately unravels?  Canadians love to think of ourselves as the nation where all peoples can come and share in the experience, we trumpet our internationalism, our multiculturalism, as a model to the world.  In reality though, Canada is a thin veneer, there is little commonality, it only articulates itself during sporting events or historic remembrance, but mostly it mocks other regionals, has contempt for other jurisdictions, while pumping its own regional chest with narrow pride.

We can do better, but who is there is to articulate the "greater good"?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Liberals Fight To Stay In Conversation

The Liberals are staking out the "middle ground" as it relates to the oilsands. With strong options on boths sides, the Liberal position is part default, part natural predisposition, but I'm not sure the "third way" will be particularly compelling. Truth be told, the Liberals are largely nowhere within a debate that looks to be centerpiece topic moving forward. There are so many tenticles to this debate over the tarsands, bleeding into a fundamental economic discussion, encapulating a deep philosophical debate revolving around our relationship with our environment.

The idea that polarization allows for a reasonable alternative to bridge the gap is nice in theory, but within this particular debate, it risks appearing vanilla and bland, even if logically sound. The fact the NDP do not oppose ANY oilsand development narrows the Liberal window that much more, there is wiggle room for Mulcair to avoid a completely "reckless" accusation.   On many scores, people are taking sides, leaving the "mushy middle" almost neutral and by extension largely irrelevant.

The NDP have taken strong stands and within that an attractive electoral coalition, as long as national unity questions are mitigated, I see a potential winning combination, the math is there.  Rather than backing off, Mulcair has largely been rewarded for steadfast conviction, agree or not, there is an inherent optical strength conveyed and that is attractive. 

And, herein lies the problem with the Liberal position.  Sure, people can see merit in both sides of the arguments. But, in reality many of us do agree or disagree, we are for a pipeline or against, we believe the environment must be protected or not, there are black and white considerations.  One only has to look at how the provincial NDP have staked out a clear position and gained traction, relative to the "fence sitting" B.C. Liberals on the pipeline issue, and we see both how polarization works and a compromised position can look quite weak.

People appreciate stances, taking a stand, fighting your ground, within that a certain risk, but a sense of conviction.  I worry that the Liberals, while entirely reasonable and "adult" in perspective, gets lost within an increasingly polarized debate, perhaps a natural state, given the issues surrounding.  We may appreciate the careful arguments from the Liberals, but if there is to be a pitched battle between two diametrically opposed ideologies, will hushed tones be heard above the sound and fury?  I tend to think not, I'm not convinced, although I'm also not sure the Liberals really have a spectral choice. 

Time will tell if the middle ground is the ultimately preferred ground.  I tend to think the positions may find some sympathy, but wonder if there is any motivation at the ballot box, when compared with the more fiery alternatives.  At this point, the Liberals fight an uphill battle just to remain part of the conversation, within an issue which will be a primary point of distinction during the next election, of that I have no doubt.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

And So It Begins...

Reading the latest piece on Liberal/NDP "co-operation" pretty much touches on every angle I've recently explored on the topic, as it relates to the Liberal leadership.

Little known David Merner has stepped forward and committed to make co-operation a centerpiece of his campaign
Mr. Merner, an admitted dark-horse candidate, said he supports the ideas floated by New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen during the NDP leadership race that federalist parties on the centre and left should nominate candidates jointly at the riding level. “We are no longer the governing party,” Mr. Merner said. “And we’ve got to look at how we co-operate.”
And suddenly Merner will place himself within a debate that will emerge as this race moves forward.  Why?  Because, as I've said the mechanics of the race mean the contest isn't confined to narrow partisans, it will draw in others with a wider agenda:
Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians...."The progressive elements of our society have to come together in solidarity"... And Jamie Biggar, the executive director of, which has challenged measures of the Harper government, says his group advocated for co-operation with the Liberals during the NDP leadership campaign and will do so again as the Liberals pick a leader.
Biggar also notes 10000 people joined the NDP to support these notions. The point here being, "outside" organizations can willingly participate in assisting any advocate. Mr. Merner will find friends within the party, and perhaps a built in administrative aid from others. There is an appetite out there for co-operation, that Merner is distinguishing himself makes him a "dark-horse" to watch, he will recieve media attention and sympathy from certain quarters. As well, many Liberal candidates will argue AGAINST any form of co-operation. This reality immediately gives Merner a prominent place within the debate and the exposure that will bring. We could see a scenario akin to Cullen, with the added angle of "supporters", which could propel and suggest serious momentum as we move forward. The media love the merger angle, it provides the necessary tension they seek. There are "third party" interests who will actively engage in the open Liberal leadership process, and I'd suggest in a more influential way than the NDP race. We now have one candidate who will advocate, perhaps more to come. I expect "co-operation" to be a core issue as this process moves forward. Mr. Merner has shrewdly staked out fertile ground that could make this "second tier" candidate one to watch moving forward...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

No Brainer Liberal Policy

I'm curious to see which leadership candidates argue a serious rethink on drug policy, particularly marijuana legalization. Despite a resolution passing at the recent Liberal convention, there is nothing binding on the party to adopt outright legalization. Naysayers also argue Liberals are foolish to think this issue top of mind with Canadians, as though a true IDENTITY isn't a collection of beliefs forming a clear presentation. In other words, nobody claims backing marijuana legalization is the sole path to 24 Sussex, but it is a controversial issue that seeks a rational champion.

The latest poll on marijuana offers no real surprises, the public well ahead of the politicians on the issue, a full two thirds of Canadians support decriminalization.   The numbers more significant when one weighs electoral realities, there is no political "downside" for the Liberals.  Add in an NDP with a leader who is hardly revolutionary on the issue, and there is an opportunity to find a voice in this debate, make the "war on drugs" a distinguishing issue.  The Conservatives have made these issues a political wedge, why continually play defence, rather than take a principled stance with rational underpinnings, which can pivot into a taxation issue as well?

The Liberals need to completely redefine their identity, but rather than "find themselves", they simply have to reassert what "liberal" means, the epiphany is nothing more than confidence to be what we should.  No hand wringing, no soul searching, just stop being so calculated and in turn watered down, believe in things, alienate and be unabashed in conviction.  Advocating marijuana legalization is a no brainer for "Liberals".

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bite The Hand That Feeds

Rarely discussed, the concerning relationship between the media and corporate Canada. Of course, outlets generally scoff at any intimation of bias. But, common sense dictates a conflict of interest when your very existence is partially predicated on monetary infusions from sources you are also "covering".  

A certain irony that the PUBLIC broadcaster breaks this story about Enbridge overtly pressuring Postmedia to pull a parody or risk losing advertising dollars. Factor in an industry in trouble to stay afloat and the leverage becomes even more acute.  One has to wonder if this story see the light of day without a entity only partially beholden to the same interests, perhaps another case for the importance of the CBC configuration.

It is fair to question coverage of certain issues, when confronted with an advertising lifeline that is essentially a lobby group.  Case in point, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers advertising that is currently bombarding media outlets.  I recently watched a political show discussing changes to environmental regulations over several segments, each of which came with a break that included what I consider one sided propaganda ads from CAPP.  Legal, yes of course.  Acceptable in a free society, obviously.  That said, it is a bit odd to have discussion of an issue- under the guise of assumed neutrality- only to see the segments dominated by biased advertising, at the core, these ads paying for the show.   One, the segments are being manipulated with these ads, whatever "unbiased" presentation during the show is offset by these ads.  As well, if people are aware of who pays the bills, just how far would said entity go in "uncovering".  In the real world, we are confronted with these conflicts all the time, to say no influence exists is to take leave of your senses.  Turn this argument around, imagine the cries from the right wing if David Suzuki ran ads after each Peter Kent television appearance.  Exactly. 

I worry that vested interests are flexing their muscle, which is their right, they are free to advertise where they choose.  However, this reality- particular with increasingly SCARCE revenue sources- does raise questions about content and direction.  I believe this Enbridge example is a terrific confirmation of the need for a public broadcaster, even if it to relies partially on advertising.  Journalism does a fantastic job uncovering conflicts of interests, even perceived or uneasy relationships.   The question becomes, where is the check on the checkers and the powerful influences that bankroll them?  Not a trivial matter, and one that is rarely discussed, which perhaps speaks to part of the problem.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Polls Provide Cautionary Tales

The latest rash of polling consistently shows support for the Harper Conservatives on the wane, a very strong NDP alternative. Some polls have the NDP in the lead, others like Abacus show a dead heat.  These are heady days for the NDP, no question about it.  But, underneath some of the polling, perhaps a cautionary tale, within that ample intellectual room for the "co-operation" argument.

There exists a disconnect between rising disapproval in all things Harper government and support numbers.  For the purposes of trends, Abacus begins with a baseline of August 2011.  Here we see a 10% erosion in "right direction" numbers for the country.  We also see a very concerning 12% rise in disapproval of the Harper government (last August 43% approval/37% disapproval, now 34% approval, 49% disapproval).  On the economy, we see a 9% drop in the federal government's handling.   Harper's personal numbers see a 1% gap in approval/disapproval last August rise to 14% today, another troubling trend line.

Taken in totality, the numbers are very, very concerning for this government, no doubt about it.  However, when we review the party support numbers, we see a more muted picture, which deserves attention.  Last August, Abacus had it 38% for the Conservatives, 32% for the NDP and 19% for the Liberals.  Today, we see 35% each for the Conservatives and NDP, 20% for the Liberals.  In other words, despite abysmal trends for the government, Harper, the Conservatives have only dropped 3%, not even outside the polls margin of error.  In addition, the NDP up 3%, Liberals static, fairly minor moves when juxtaposed against the government performance/Harper numbers.   I think this an imperative point for those giddy with dreams of conquest, the questions are a bit more complicated moving forward.

The opposition are not fully maximizing the disquiet with this government.  Approvals are now SO bad for the Conservatives that we see competition, outright leads, but this reality still hasn't captured the underlying unease, the full price isn't being paid.  That the government can still remain tied nationally, despite abysmal numbers, further argument for proponents of co-operation, those that want some agreement that makes "opposition" succinct and efficient.   Despite these worrying trends for Harper, we still have a situation where a slight rebound, "less bad" if you will, translates to another mandate, almost absurd on one level.

For those of us who wish the Conservatives no good fortune, these polls are clearly encouraging.  However, beyond the headlines and pom poms, there still exists a structural disconnect within the polling that leaves some room for government optimism.  To my mind, a shrewd alternative looks for ways to SNUFF out any escape routes. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Americans Move Towards Supply Management?

Plenty of upheaval lately over supply management, a pet peeve of the corporate media, lobbyists and apparently some Liberals, although the latest "big name" voice is about as liberal as Harper is a communist these days(do the math). As well, if your big idea of a bold new vision for the Liberal Party is arguing against a stable rural economy, perhaps leadership isn't your calling (do the math). Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions, however the sudden emphasis with all the problems in this country is overblown and bordering on hyperbolic.

Those that argue against supply management live in a never never land, wherein they actually believe prices would be the equivalent of other jurisdictions, despite the fact commodities and goods are ALWAYS higher in Canada, even those operating in the beloved free market (which doesn't exist btw). I just read a G and M piece today arguing supply management costs consumers 3 billion a year, 3 billion! Lazy pieces of this sort never compare price differences with other commodities outside of the dreaded system, they simply falsely posit erroneous bottom line numbers to alarm and rile. As well, strangely, no one every incorporates the additional costs of government inspection, on farm food safety, programs many farmers pay for THEMSELVES under the current system.  What of that "cost" to consumers, is that not counterbalanced or is it just easier to use simplistic math to further a bastardized case?

Perhaps the cost of these commodities would go down under a new system, but the evidence in other jurisdictions is contradictory, you can make the case either way.  As well, a certain naivety is required to not believe the big processors wouldn't gobble up any additional margins, to think "savings" are passed directly on the consumer requires leave of common sense.  No, what is most likely, very marginal savings to the consumer, the farmer suffers and any benefit goes to corporations.

There is quite a interesting debate going on down south.  A quick review of the dairy reforms proposed by US Senator Gillibrand HERE is a good review for anyone who actually believes the true free market exists.  Revisiting the BAILOUT programs to deal with volatile prices, as well as newer reforms that would PEG THE PRICE and MANIPULATE the supply of milk- the horror!  Yesterday, a BIPARTISAN amendment passed the US Senate, which means the Americans will look at these reforms, the move towards supply management alive and well in free market America. What we see with the American example, a commodity wherein farmers require routine bailouts and protectionism to keep the industry afloat. The latest reforms, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, are a byproduct of the realization that market forces are destroying the family farm.

With that backdrop, fascinating that certain elements in Canada seem determined to adopt this failing model. To be fair, the "model" was always an illusion, the Americans subsidize their commodities, as do most jurisdictions, in a myriad of ways, any talk of a true free market always a laughable proposition. Anyways, it is noteworthy that the Americans are seeking to adopt price control and supply manipulation just as the heat is on Canada to abandon these "outdated" marketing boards.

Go compare the price of a car in Canada and the United States. Our very own Senate is CURRENTLY looking at the perplexing reality, that being, EVERYTHING in Canada is more expensive, even things outside of the dreaded supply management system. Remember this reality when false numbers are presented, 3 billion my ASS, run the numbers for other goods, then get back to us with your enlightened math corporate media.

I support farmers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Utterly Stunning

Using the backdrop- the maelstorm of controversy, the Auditor General report that highlighted outright deception- it is utterly stunning that this government can STILL operate within a frame of obstruction and secrecy on this file, STUNNING:
Opposition MPs were frustrated at the government’s attempt to end the hearings after only seven hours of witness testimony, which resulted in a stalemate as National Defence deputy minister Robert Fonberg contradicted the auditor general over facts in his report. They were angrier still after Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose (Sherwood Park, Alta.) confirmed an independent review of F-35 cost differences between National Defence and Mr. Ferguson’s report will be denied access to key cost estimates from the U.S.

Although outside experts to be hired by the Treasury Board secretariat will have access to the latest National Defence cost estimates, they will not be able to see the data on which the estimates are based—cost assumptions and forecasts that were provided to National Defence in May by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Office in Washington, Va
Shutting down the hearings prematurely, denying Parliament cost estimates, after all the concerns expressed, that the government can still obstruct in this fashion may be the most obscene thing we've seen during their tenure.  Simply unreal, our system is beyond broken and our government more represents a military junta than any manifestation of a modern democracy.  What more can you say...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Conservatives Passed Best Before Date?

The latest spate of polls show a few things, not the least of which is erosion in Conservative numbers, as well as growing disapproval for Harper. Emphasis is on the robust NDP numbers, as predicted this newfound popularity is more than just a traditional post convention bounce, it's a realignment in Canadian politics. Leger out with a Quebec poll, showing the NDP at a staggering 52%, a testament to an emerging solid base for Mulcair. Other polls show the NDP at dizzying heights ahead or tied with the Conservatives. Electorally, the NDP "coalition" looks equally stout, Quebec, British Columbia and very competitive in Ontario and Atlantic Canada is a potential winning combination.  With we Liberals now in flux, I won't be surprised to see numbers remain within this range moving forward.

To my mind, the real "story" within these numbers, this government is very much taking a hit for their performance of late.  The Conservatives will always have a rock solid base, 30% seems to be bottom, but they are alienating marginal voters, and this is perhaps more important in a regional, electoral sense.  Important to note here, 30% in your back pocket, no matter your transgressions, will forever give the Conservatives a strong chance moving forward, only point is a question of vulnerability. 

I contend this government may have passed their best before date.  I also believe they have made a massive strategic error holding to their stubborn budget agenda, galvanizing their opposition in a new and potent configuration.  Once people see you as "arrogant", "unyielding", "anti-democratic", these are not pleasant characterizations and they come with a cost.   I have yet to see a time during their governance wherein so many former Progressive Conservatives are openly criticizing, where the edges of their "tent" are taking in water.    The Harper Conservatives brand is becoming tarnished, their dismissive belief that is is ONLY about the economy is being challenged.  To be fair, the Conservatives have reached this place based on the thesis, but that is not the only consideration.

When the Conservatives had a minority, they were able to reduce any outrageous manifestation as simply a function of the seat allocation realities.  Minorities breed hyper partisanship, strong arm tactics to survive, everyone is continually in confrontation mode, it's simply the nature of the system.  However, Canadians are now faced with the reality that absolutely nothing has changed with a majority, nobody has "mellowed", perhaps the attacks on democracy have worsened and the arrogance at the fore.  This government very much resembles a gang that has held power for to long, so cozy they don't care a lick about Parliamentary process, the ideals of our system, they act and resemble a totalitarian regime dealing with nuances.  A dangerous concoction which is being to manifest as people's opinions turn on the government, good management not the sole consideration.

We have seen these Conservatives rebound many times, but for some reason this instance seems slightly different, both in terms of the growing resolve of opposition as well as historical context on the life of governments.  Harper's Conservatives are beginning to resemble all the things people used to hate about the former "natural governing" party,  they look FAR to comfortable in power and this is where trouble evolves.  We have scandals, we have ethical lapses, we have a tone which is elitist and detached, we have tired faces and arguments, we have baggage, we have alternatives, we have an emerging and growing coalition of forces who wish them no good fortune, we have many signs that all is not rosy in Conservative land.

The mothership is vulnerable.