Monday, August 31, 2009

Is John Baird out to Lunch?

Election speculation went up a notch today when Ignatieff announced that he was contemplating a fall election based on principle. Previously, John "The Pitbull" Baird had maintained that if an election were called, all the programs for the economy undertaken by the Conservatives would cease to operate. Which begs the question: How?

I guess that John Baird would argue that no new policy decisions can be taken, or old policy altered. However, Baird is playing to the fears and his perceived stupidity of the public. If Baird's comments were taken at face value, you would think that the whole government apparatus grinds to a halt, simply because an election is on. The government structure keeps operating on standby during an election, so by no means would all the Conservatives programs be canceled.

This argument masks the fact that, in fact, there may be few programs that are actually operating properly in the first place. As Ignatieff and other Liberal MPs have pointed out, numerous programs that were announced in the budget have not actually been implemented yet. So on that count as well Baird's assertion is shaky.

Finally, who supported the budget, with modifications that it brought to bear on the government? That's right, the Liberals, who would most likely be the next government if the Conservatives lost. So even if an election were called, and the Conservatives lost, their policies would live on, except that with a Liberal government, they'd be expanded on, and implemented faster, much faster.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Liberals looking more ready for an election than in a long time

Today the Liberals announced that they would be running a $2 million ad campaign to boost Ignatieff's image and make him more familiar with the electorate. Equally important for signs of a healthy party is that the party has finally caught up to the CPC in fund-raising. They raised as much as the Tories did in the second quarter. And as we all know, one of the reasons Harper has won the past two elections is that he had much deeper pockets than the Liberals.

What with Harper giving an interview designed to present him as a family man to a Quebec magazine, you know that both parties are considering a fall election as a possibility. And finally, it looks like the field is evening out.

For that reason, coupled with the need for the Liberals to take a stand in opposing this government, a fall election seems as good a bet as any. If Ignatieff performs well at the start of the next session and sees a corresponding rise in the polls, he would be well advised to pull the trigger. And the Conservatives may just help him with one of their incessant scandals/mess ups.
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Alternative reform to the Senate

To hear Stephen Harper say it, one assumes there is only one way of reforming the Senate, through elections to the Senate. However, there are alternative ways to reform the Red Chamber that would be more in line with the Senate's purpose: to be the house of "sober second thought".

Making the upper chamber elected could, in most aspects render the Senate a second House of Commons. It would be more likely to have proportions of senators similar to the House. In other words, depending on when elections were held, it could become obsolete, a simple rubber stamp to whatever legislation is put forward by the House.

Instead, one could change the Senate's powers, so that it does not have a veto as it does now. Instead, it could take on more of the characteristics of the UK's House of Lords, which only has the power to delay legislation for a 12-month period. This would eliminate the Senate's current absolute veto on legislation, while ensuring that it could limit the powers of the government.

This, I think, might be more in line with what the Senate was designed to do, as it could give the nation reason to think about the legislation it wants pushed through, instead of becoming a passive chamber without much power. Then those senatorial salaries really would be a waste of money.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harper's Defence on Senate Reform (it's a poor one)

Harper, while not confirming his nine Senate appointments, did attempt to defend the 27 appointments he has made to the Upper Chamber in the last year. Unfortunately for him, it's a laughable defence at best:

"I’m willing to appoint elected senators, but so far only one province has held an election and that’s Alberta," Harper said in Quebec.

"Until senators are elected, this government will ensure that we have in the Senate people who will work hard and will support the elected government of this country. And that includes passing our anti-crime legislation and passing our democratic reforms which have been blocked in the Senate."

Sound inconsistent with Harper's pontifications on Senate reform? That's because it is. To hear Harper tell it a while back, he was ready to bring real reform to the Senate. The Conservatives were going to make significant changes to the gravy train that is Canada's Upper House, according to Harper.

However, once in power for a while, Harper has realized that having a Senate with a majority in his favour would be highly beneficial, and would streamline his legislation. So now, instead of senate reform being a federal responsibility, one that Harper partly campaigned on, it is now provincial.

It's not Harper's fault there's no reform. It's those backward provinces that don't set up elections for the senate. Let that sink in. Harper is saying that provincial governments should organize elections for federal posts.

Instead of being principled and accountable, two virtues on which he campaigned mercilessly, Harper is thinking up the most ludicrous excuses for his lack of principle.

Just wait. Perhaps the provinces are responsible for more than you think.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ignatieff Wants a Coalition, Conservatives Say. Norman Specter Says He Nixed One.

If you visit the Conservative Party website, you will realize that Ignatieff is willing to engage in coalition negotiations, or so the Conservatives hope. However, these claims are unsubstantiated, sanctimonious, and communicate a purposeful impression of such a coalition as undemocratic.

Apparently, "[t]his week, Michael Ignatieff admitted that the Liberal-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition is alive and well. Ignatieff is ready to bring back the Coalition if it means he gets to be Prime Minister."

But, whereas the document substantiates a statement by Ignatieff on the coalition crisis last December, it does not point to any source for these allegations. One doubts that there is any real basis for this claim, as if there were, wouldn't the Conservatives be all too ready to provide it? What's more, I haven't come across any such stories, and I doubt most people have. Perhaps the news was communicated only to the Conservatives?

In fact, Norman Spector wrote a blog post the day before this document was published entitled Iggy nixes a coalition

Secondly, the document brings forward the inevitable attack on Ignatieff: "While the Liberals and NDP and Bloc Québécois play petty political games, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative government remain focused on the economy."

This, obviously, is based on the premise that there have actually been talks of a coalition. Be that as it may, these words exonerate Stephen Harper and his government from any such "petty politics" that they maintain the others are engaging in. Doesn't making up false news and then calling the other parties petty constitute a highly ironic example of petty politics?

In all of this, the document purposefully portrays any idea of a coalition as an undemocratic agreement, nothing better than a power grab. Informed observers know however that a coalition is in fact a perfectly democratic and legitimate form of government under the constitution.

The reminder that last fall, "In order to seize the power that the voters had denied them, the Liberals entered a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois in order to overturn the results of the last election." shows this lack of understanding of the constitution of this country, or a deliberate misleading of the public.

In other words, all these three aspects make this attack a truly Harper/Conservative one.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's with this government and protecting its citizens?

It would seem that a recent policy change has been arrived at in Ottawa: don't act in the interests of Canadian citizens abroad, even if it's for their safety. Remember Mohamud? Well now the saga of Omar Khadr continues.

Ottawa has decided to appeal a decision of the Appeals Court to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Appeals Court ruling stated that Canada should endeavor, by all means possible, to repatriate Khadr.

Through some singular reasoning, Ottawa has decided that because of the severity of Khadr's alleged crimes, he needs to suffer in Guantanamo. Not to mention that Ottawa has failed to take into account significant evidence which seems to strike at the base of the case against Khadr.

Why is it that Canada is the only Western country that still has one of its citizens in Guantanamo? The answer to that question is likely not because Khadr was the most reprehensible criminal there. It would seem instead that the answer lies not in the severity of the charges facing Khadr, but rather in the character and ideology of our government.

At a time when all the other Western nations have rescued their citizens from Guantanamo, Ottawa watches on as Khadr wallows in Guantanamo Bay, where he was tortured once.

Some may say that the Liberals did not manage to bring Khadr home either. That may be the case, but at least they did not intentionally obstruct his return to Canada, and especially when a federal court recommended his repatriation.

Omar Khadr is not being suitably protected by his government. Suad Hagi Mohamud was stranded in Kenya because of government inactivity and lack of concern. When will this government realize that to govern Canada means to act in Canadians' interest?
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Friday, August 14, 2009

The possible excuse for Ignatieff's silence

In the last few federal elections, there has been only one instance of a grand idea being at the centre of a party's platform, a grand idea that could be the basis of a wide-ranging, encompassing and compelling debate. If Ignatieff is preparing his first move in such a debate, then his summer hibernation would be warranted.

For one, this would ensure that Ignatieff would not need to tip his hand too much on other issues, as the media would be focused instead on his grand "idea", and so would Harper and his cronies. This would also provide an opportunity to conceptualise new policies.

Not only that, but coming up with a grand "idea", if done right, can interest people in politics more than business as usual. People get engaged, and they get to meet the new leader who proposed such an idea.

And, as an added bonus, it motivates young people to come out and vote, and youth vote more consistently for the Liberals and the NDP.

Let's hope this is what Ignatieff has been up to.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Insecure (New) Democrats?

According to Ian Capstick in the Globe and Mail, there are some factions within the party that are ardently resisting attempts to drop the irrelevant adjective from its name. Could this possibly be revealing some sort of insecurity on the (New) Democrat front?

Any such attachment to being "new" democrats is ridiculous at best. Does it really matter whether or not they are "new" democrats? One can, if scraping the barrel for arguments, point to a possible identification with the Democrats down south. However, as far as I can tell, Jack Layton does not remotely look like President Obama.

Another argument is that it may endanger significant successes on the provincial side. Once again, will people really forget who the "Democrats" on their bill are? I doubt they'll think it's Harper.

What it seems to be is an attachment to being "new". Some may not want to publicly acknowledge that it's been so long and yet less than was hoped for has been accomplished. Perhaps also this could be seen as part of a general trend, some say, of NDP movement towards the centre.

Even if these are the governing concerns, it is of no real consequence. The NDP will make themselves relevant, and part of the national consciousness, by putting forward creative proposals and capturing the mind of voters, not by being "new".
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Ignatieff squanders opportunity, again

Today Harper announced that his government would be working "to see her [Suaad Haji Mohamud] get on a flight back to Canada." What, you say, did Ignatieff offer up on the subject? What grand and eloquent words did he use in his defence of Mohamud against a neglectful government? Nothing.

With the end result being that Harper emerges virtually unscathed from an opportunity for the opposition to expose the sheer callousness of this government.

One wonders what Ignatieff will speak out on right now. Not much it looks like.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why are our leaders silent about Suaad Haji Mohamud's ordeal?

In the Suaad Haji Mohamud story what is conspicuous is the silence of our political leaders on the issue. In fact, the only one whose opinion I've come across is Dalton McGuinty's. As for the PM, and the Leader of the Opposition, they're keeping up their summer strategies of avoiding the public. Which baffles the mind.

It is demonstrably in favour of both leaders that they speak out on the issue. For Harper, he needs to seem apologetic for the ordeal this Canadian citizen has been through. He needs to seem compassionate and caring. However, he has not uttered a word on the subject, so far as I can see.

Ignatieff, on the other hand, comes across in much the same light. Of course, this does not affect him as negatively as Harper, after all it was not his government that remained inactive and uninterested in Mohamud's plight. But, there is no conceivable reason why he should not speak out on the behalf of a fellow Canadian, especially if she is being maltreated by the government he is supposed to oppose.

Harper has a lot more to lose by inaction, but Ignatieff had a lot more to gain. Not to mention common human decency.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NDP winning the next election?

As I was visiting the NDP site, I found an invitation from Jack Layton encouraging me to go to the Halifax convention and help the party lay the foundations for winning the next election. Now I know that Layton can't demoralize his base by admitting how unlikely that is. Not to mention that an election could come as early as this fall, in which case there will be very little time to lay winning foundations. Anyway here it is...

"I invite you to join me - and thousands of New Democrats from across Canada - in Halifax this August. Together we’ll build our Party and lay the foundation for winning the next election.

With a Prime Minister who’s not sure how to handle this economic crisis, everyday Canadians are relying on New Democrats for leadership that will put them first.

This is your chance to make a real difference.

Canada can come out of this crisis stronger, greener and more prosperous than ever. But we have much work to do. I’m counting on you for all your ideas and your energy to help get us there.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and start building the Canada we want – one where the middle-class and the most vulnerable aren’t left behind.

I’ll see you in Halifax.

Jack Layton"
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ignatieff, give Canadians something to talk about around the barbecue

One would think the summer would be a perfect opportunity for Ignatieff to connect with Canadians on a greater basis, making sure they are familiar with him. As the novelty of his leadership has worn off, not much has been found in its wake. Seeing as the Liberals are now virtually tied with the Conservatives, it would seem reasonable to expect at the least one policy for Canadians to digest while we sit around our barbecues.

I have written before of some of the dangers involved in revealing certain policies before elections. However, that is not to say that there should be no policy positions revealed.

For instance, it is a good idea to reveal policy on wedge issues, controversial issues on which other parties would find it difficult to follow you. We saw such a policy with Dion's carbon tax.

Unlike Harper, Ignatieff has not had 3 plus years to show Canadians what his policies are through governing. Meaning that the onus is on him to make policy announcements, not on Harper.

What's more, on controversial issues it may be a good idea to reveal your policy so that you can prep the electorate for your election platform. If done right, this can also pique the nation's interest and form some manner of national debate. Granted, this gives Harper time unleash the formidable Conservative arsenal of attack ads, but it also gives time for your own ads.

With some thinking Harper might be eyeing yet another election in the fall, it's as good a time as any.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

What's wrong with my generation and politics?

It is a widely recognized fact that youth are more and more disengaged, in general, by politics. The electoral results at all levels over the past years show this. However, at the same time it is expected that these youth, and children, will have acute social consciousnesses when they grow up.

How can this be? If they are to have acute social consciousnesses, it follows that they will be passionate about issues of social justice and the like. But, how channel that passion if you don't believe in the power of government to change things, and hence in participation in the political system?

The answer seems to be that youth don't see a disconnect, they don't see the glaring inconsistency. Why? Because of the pernicious mantra that can be applied to every problem: "if we all do our part, we can change the world".

At face value, this would seem to be fine. However, it all hinges on what you define as "your part".

Let's consider climate change. Our part seems limited to buying a more fuel efficient car, turning off lights, recycling etc... Nowhere is there any mention that the political process may be helpful.

Instead it's change the world through the little things. Instead it's politics is a bunch of broken promises and ineffective at best in bringing about change.

Yet these things cannot and will never bring about the desired change. My generation stands to be frustrated by its combination of a distrust and dislike of politics and sincere hopes of changing the world. That is if it doesn't change.

How can I say it won't bring about the desired change? First, some issues are too big for everyone to do their part. What's more, not everyone wants to do their part.

Secondly, working through charities and such does not have the advantages of government. A government can tax, a government can negotiate with multiple partners, a government has money for studies. Granted charities are powerful, but there is no way that they have the ability to implement solutions.

Charities cannot be the implementers of national policy. Only government can. And, consequentially, the political process must play a part.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Regressive Harmonized Sales Tax creating disharmony

The Harmonized Sales Tax has certainly not lived up to its billing, disharmonizing rather than harmonizing. And it's no wonder.

The HST being proposed in BC is not solely harmonizing the GST and the PST. In fact, it would seem its chief aim is to expand the PST, not harmonize the already existing provincial tax with the federal one.

To announce this new tax in the middle of a recession shows how unconcerned the Conservatives and BC Liberals are by the more unfortunate members of Canadian society. How? Well, it's evident that it's going to hit harder in the middle of a recession than it would otherwise.

But what's more is that the HST, like all sales taxes, is regressive. That means that the percent of one's income that is used to pay the tax is greater the lower your income bracket.

This tax could be seen as being an artificial way of reducing provincial deficits. But it's worse than that. It is creating a greater economic divide between Canadians.

Not to mention an ever decreasing trust of politicians who promise one thing, and deliver another.
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