Thursday, July 31, 2008

McKay Insults Soldiers; Generation

Peter McKay continues to embarrass himself and all Canadians. The Minister of National Defence took a swing at Canadian soldiers and an entire generation in responding to a question about the uptick in disciplinary actions in the military in recent years. Here's the quote from the CBC:

"young people today are not used to, quite frankly, some of the demands and the rigours and the discipline that is expected in the Canadian Forces." "Requiring young people to comply with strict military doctrine and discipline is a greater challenge today, quite frankly, than it was 10 or 15 or 25 years ago,"

Okay, I understand that McKay doesn't expect a lot of votes from people under thirty in the next election. I also understand that this comment will probably get a nod of the head from many older voters who are distressed at the behaviour of kids these days. However, I think it is important to remember that Mr. McKay is impugning the men and women who have volunteered to risk life and limb in defense of this country. They are our heroes not some young punks. Mr. McKay also apparently forgets the difficulty in keeping "with strict military doctrine and discipline" "15... years ago" in Somalia. Lapses in military discipline under combat stress is nothing new (Vietnam anyone?). To blame our soldiers upbringing for what has to be considered a predictable side effect of the stresses of combat is beyond low. The actions of a few a bad apples should never be used to denigrate the entirety of our armed service. The vast majority of Canadian soldiers today are serving their country with honour as they did in Somalia fifteen years ago. Mr. McKay owes our brave young men and women at very least an apology if not his resignation. I guess this kind of comment is predictable... it's a lot harder, quite frankly, to get competent cabinet ministers than it was 10, 15 or 25 years ago.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stand Up For Consumers

Stephen Harper et al. promised to "Stand Up For Canada" if they were elected. Apparently that meant standing up for small agricultural cartels. At least, that is the policy Harper has taken in the latest attempts to revive the Doha round at the WTO. Jeffrey Simpson has a good artice. This should be a no brainer. Millions of Canadians would benefit from the removal of these tarrifs. A few thousand Canadians benefit from their maintenance. To be fair, this is an issue that no political party in this country seems to be willing to adress. Politicians and the media in this country and most of the West (I mean the developed world not Alberta here) treat farming as a sacred cow (no pun intended). With grocery bills skyrocketing it is time to stop the squeeze on the Canadian family. Bring down these tariffs Mr. Harper. Canadian farmers can compete in certain areas. We aren't talking about the end of Canadian agriculture here. Dairy just isn't our most competitive industry right now. Heck, our dairy industry might become competitive if it actually had to compete. Mr. Harper, you claim to believe in the free market, let it reign on Canada's farms.

Update: The talks have collapsed again! We should still be lowering tariffs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

FV for Guelph

I spent the majority of Saturday helping out the Frank Valeriote campaign in Guelph. Great turnout by the young Liberals. We dropped a lot of literature which will hopefully help to further introduce Frank to the fine people of Guelph (he's apparently already been around once pre-writ). Scott and William have the pictures. Yes, by the way, we were bussed in. I don't really see the problem seeing as it is an important by-election and no one ever claimed we were locals. I believe plans are in the works for a lit drop or canvas after the end of Summer Fling in a couple of weeks. I hope that a lot of the young liberals attending that event will join me in giving another hand to the Valeriote campaign. A Liberal government is impossible unless we hold on to seats like Guelph.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jim Flaherty Still Can't Balance a Budget

The man who left the Ontario budget in tatters when he was booted out of office, is beginning to show his handiwork federally. You mean if you tax less and spend more, you're going to run a deficit? What a shock! All sarcasm aside, this is terrible news for the country. M. Dion we quite literally cannot afford another Conservative budget. Bring down this fiscally irresponsible government as soon as humanly possible.

Time to Show Some Momentum

There are by-elections now called in Ontario and Quebec. It is crucial to finally start winning these things in a convincing fashion. Are three victories to much to ask for?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Warren Kinsella's Happy Happy Joy Joy Land

I am reluctant to criticize a guy who just did a favour for my riding association. However, I think Mr. Kinsella is in desperate need of a reality check. Mr. Kinsella was in Toronto-Danforth doing a little talk for a few Toronto young Liberals. Kinsella was waxing poetic about why Stephane Dion is going to be competitive in the next election (not a sentiment I necessarily disagree with). His arguments ranged from sound to downright absurd. Here are some of the low-lights:
  • Money actually doesn't matter in politics. Mr. Kinsella argued that the massive Tory fundraising edge is inconsequential, after all, Ross Perot didn't become President. I mean if you could just buy your way into office Silvio Berlusconni would be Prime Minister of Italy... oh wait...
  • Quebec votes with the winner. Kinsella claimed with great authority (he was born there after all) that Quebeckers are shrewd voters and vote with the party that will win the election. Oh, is that why the Bloc Quebecois has won the majority of Quebec ridings in election after election since 1993?
  • The clapping ad is good symbolism. Kinsella says he watches political ads with the sound off and gives the clap-a-thon an A plus. Explain to me again what clapping politicians have to do with exotic frogs? Wait, are we serious about climate change or are we smiling for the cameras? I'm all for non-verbal communication. I don't mind the inclusiveness and the sense of momentum but if you think that ad is going to do anything but rally some die-hard grits, you're dreaming.
  • In tough economic times, the Tories will be doomed by their lack of vision. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that was the sentiment. Kinsella argued that Canadians will insist upon a plan to guide them through rough waters. Mr. Kinsella should read up on the federal election of 1935. See how far R.B. Bennett got with his grand schemes for tough economic times. Also note how King used his edge in leadership to convince people to vote for his judgement over outlandish schemes.
  • We shouldn't underestimate Harper but we should follow him around with a video camera waiting for him to screw up. I'm all for keeping tabs on your opponents. However, Kinsella has to remember that most politicians aren't as incompetent as John Tory. Getting a guy with Tory's pathetic political track record to self-destruct isn't evidence of an effective campaign, it's evidence of unbelievable good luck. That strategy didn't work against Harper in 06, and it won't work in 08.
  • People are smart to vote with their gut. This one floored me. Voting intuitively is stupid. It's how George W. Bush won the Whitehouse. Sorry Mr. Kinsella, it isn't a good idea to vote for the guy (or gal) who's just like you. Vote for the guy who gets you, sure. Vote for just another guy.... Mr. Kinsella wonders why we can't get the same kind of energetic election that they are having down south. Guess what, we did have that. It was called Trudeaumania. And guess what, he was nothing like the average Canadian. If you search for mediocrity in your politicians, that's exactly what you're going to get.

You Mean 1 Euro Doesn't Include the Carbon Cost?

The European Union is engaged in debate over what to do about aviation and their new carbon trading system. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the discount airlines. I traveled on them extensively when I was in Europe. However, the mere thought that they would be excluded from any sort of carbon pricing system is absurd. Europeans are using discount airlines not only for recreational travel but also to get cheap labour from the poorer East to the richer West without the bother of actual immigration. Work the week in England, fly back to Poland for the weekend. The discount airlines have become a crucial part of the continent's economy. Thus, a tax on air travel might actually force Europeans to change their ways, perish the thought. The EU's incessant holier than thou attitude on climate change would be a lot more bearable if they weren't so afraid of doing anything that would actually negatively impact on any of their citizens. There has been some leadership within the EU (particularly in Scandinavia) on climate change. This, on the other hand, smacks of the same kind of nimbyism which limits the climate change debate on this side of the pond. You would think a non-democratic instituion like the EU (the European Parliament is about as legitimate and powerful as the Canadian senate) would have a little more luck dealing with angry voters. Hey, if they can exclude air travel, why can't we exclude oil production? They are both major polluters after all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Suzuki Proves Why Liberals are Needed to go Green

The David Suzuki Foundation has released a report on provincial efforts to solve the climate crisis. The report supports the efforts of Dalton McGuinty in Ontario to eliminate coal powered plants from the grid. The Suzuki Foundation, however, toes the green line on nuclear power. The report claims that the province could avoid nuclear power and keep the lights on and sights a World Wildlife Fund/Pembina report to that effect. Unfortunately, the solution proposed by the WWF/Pembina report is to rely on importing hydro from Manitoba and Qu├ębec. In other words, Ontario cannot forego nuclear expansion and remain energy independent (I am aware that the province buys and sells energy on a daily basis, but basically production in Ontario meets Ontarians needs). We need climate change policies which don't pass the buck. We need policies which work for the given jurisdiction and are created within that jurisdiction. The green lobby in this country and around the world, is scared of nuclear energy. While the potential for disaster is theoretically possible with nuclear power, the reality is that a well-maintained modern Canadian power plant built in a stable climate is simply not a serious candidate for catastrophe.

The fact remains that there is no other reliable, cost-effective way to generate green electricity in this province. Our hydro sources are already dammed. Wind is too unreliable to keep the lights on. A hot humid day with no wind and plenty of air conditioners and we're stuck importing electricity from coal plants in the US. Solar is still too expensive for any sort of mass-generation facility. Using solar as a means of heating homes and businesses through incentives to install solar paneling is a good approach, and one that should be advanced. However, Ontario's energy needs will not wait for companies and homeowners to take advantage of a government program. We need power in the very near future. Conservation, while important, will not solve a problem in a province with a booming population and increasing air conditioner use. People have more air conditioners than they did twenty years ago and on the hottest days in southern Ontario it is in the interest of public health to use them. Thus, we are left with nuclear power. The carbon cost for a nuclear-generated kilowhat hour of electricity is miniscule to negligible. The small amount of fissile material necessary for power generation means that even in the extraction of uranium there is not much of a cost. Nuclear power should be on the lips of every environmentalist on earth. It is the only thing that could curb the production of coal plants in China and India which will doom the planet.

The Liberal Party is the only party with the determination to solve the climate crisis and the pragmatism to see the wisdom of using nuclear power.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Thoughts

I apologize for to my three readers for my week long hiatus. I was off on the Rock where they call Prime Minister Harper Steve because "he doesn't like being called Steve." Wait, you mean promising everything to everyone can backfire? What a shock! Some other quick fire thoughts:
  • Just finished Fareed Zakaria's "The Post-American World." I tend to agree with Mr. Zakaria on most points although I think he is slightly on the optimistic side in terms of the United States. At any rate an easy read and quite informative on many points. I definitely recommend it. Fans of The Daily Show will undoubtedly recognize Mr. Zakaria who has an appearance rate only rivaled by John McCain.
  • Seeing the anger towards Harper in Newfoundland was refreshing. How long do you think it will be before Quebec dumps him like they did Mulroney and Borden before him?
  • Harper's electoral math may be challenged by a few losses on the Rock if he doesn't do some repair work. Luckily for Mr. Dion, Newfoundlanders don't tend to vote anything except Tory and Liberal. If they are mad at Harper, he should be the beneficiary no matter what the impact of The Green Shift may be on the oil producing province.
  • It is remarkable how the media insists on saying that the American race is close. Anyone look at an electoral college projection lately? Could McCain win? Sure. Is it going to take a major shift in public opinion? Definitely.
  • The economy may be in the tubes, but everything's coming up roses in Gotham. Seriously, I need to see this movie. I never need to see a movie. I really never need to see a summer blockbuster. This one, I want to see.
  • Speaking of the economy being in the tubes, $1.50 for a litre of gas in St. John's? Holy mackerel... or I guess cod.
  • Note to self: Post on Suzuki report on provinces and climate change.
Have a good week everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Happened to the Dog Days?

Summer is supposed to be a time when you can take a news holiday and get away with it. Weeks filled with Coney Island hot dog contests and George Bush clearing brush. Financial markets in particular are supposed to be slow. Everyone's to busy golfing to care about the markets. Lots of low volume days. Well, this doesn't quite fit the pattern. Anyone following the mortgage meltdown south of the border won't be shocked to hear that the US Treasury is going to extraordinary lengths to protect its biggest lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, the fact this meltdown is occuring in July tells me, in case I needed a reminder, just how serious this crisis is. Last week a major regional bank went under in California. There are rumblings of General Motors having liquidity issues. The global economy is on the precipice. Yes, don't believe for a second that any country, least of all Canada, can resist the pressure of a US recession. If M. Dion insists on spending the summer talking about The Green Shift, he better be talking about all those Green jobs he's going to bring Canadians. People don't want to hear about the environment when they can't put food on the table or pay the rent. Climate change doesn't stop being important but voters care a whole lot less. Priorities change when the economy goes south. If M. Dion needs any confirmation he should talk to his foreign affairs critic about auto insurance.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Coyne on Abortion

Andrew Coyne has written a compelling piece on abortion for Maclean's. Coyne argues that, after twenty years of having absolutely no law on the subject (through what he describes as a political fluke), it is about time to have a real debate on abortion and finally get some sort of law on the books even if the law merely reaffirms the status quo. Coyne seems to be pulling out his hair over the lack of democratic oversight on this issue. While I theoretically agree with Coyne's concerns, I must say that the abortion debate or lack there of seems to fit well into Canada's current political climate. Think about it. It's been over twenty-five years since the first voices began speaking of the urgency of getting Quebec's signature on the constitution. Canadians are deeply divided on free trade and have voted both ways on it (people forget that the Liberals opposition to free trade remained through the 1993 election when they promised to renegotiate NAFTA) but we no longer debate the issue. Health care has gone from an urgent issue to a non-issue. Why? Politicians realized that they couldn't do anything about it or at least not anything that would win them votes. So, they continue to throw money at the problem and call royal commissions. The chattering classes (mostly the right wing of it) are upset about human rights commissions and free speech. Any politicians touching that issue with a ten-foot pole? As sad as it may seem, there is nothing more Canadian today than to push our biggest problems and debates to the backburner. I can only guess that Canadians are divided enough by other things that they can't really stomach any more federation threatening national debates. Thus, while Mr. Coyne raises a valid point, don't expect anyone to reopen the abortion debate this millenium.

Side Note: Abortion will likely remain off the table for two more practical reasons. The Tories see at as a losing issue. The pro-life crowd already largely votes Conservative and the few pro-choicers they have are crucial to staying in government and winning a majority. The Liberals are divided on the issue. Having gone through, at the focused prodding of the court, the same-sex marriage debate, the Grits are in no mood to open up internal wounds.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Most Important Election?

Trust Dan Arnold to break up the summer blahs. Once again the Calgary Grit is running a knockout political tournament. This time it is the greatest elections in Canadian history. I'm going to stay away from recent history for my federal picks and leave all my answers to before 1945. My provincial political history stinks so I'm going to have to be more recent. I'll start with a couple of pre-confederation elections.

1841 (Province of Canada): The first election after the rebellions of 1837. The coalition of Baldwin and Lafontaine would be established during this election including the subsequent by-election victory of Lafontaine in York (made famous by the Heritage moment). Although it would take a fair bit of conflict and the burning of a legislature, this election would pave the way, more than any other, for the establishment of responsible government in this country.

1858 (Province of Canada): The double majority system was a pain in the neck to begin with but it became untenable in 1858 with the Liberals under George Brown (not far removed from their anti-Catholic origins) elected in Canada West and the Tories under Cartier elected in Canada East. If 1841 was important because of the cooperation between the provinces, 1858 was important because the provinces couldn't work together. George Brown would never have joined Macdonald's grand coalition if he felt he could govern without it. Without Brown onboard the grand coalition would have been a joke and Canada may never have been born.

1874 (Federal): Alexander Mackenzie may not hold a particularly special place in the hearts of Canadians, but his election in 1874 was crucial. The Tories under Sir John A. Macdonald were mired in the railway scandal and deserved to be defeated. Canadians understood this and, for the first time as a country, threw the bums out. Accountability is everything in a democracy and we got accountability in 1874.

1878 (Federal): Two elections in a row? Absolutely. Canada would be run for the better part of twenty years on the national policy which elected John A. Macdonald in 1878. While his policies have been a mixed bag (Railway-finished; tariffs-eliminated; immigration-became cornerstone of Canada), the national policy is crucial in understanding where we came from as a nation.

1896 (Federal): The election of the second Liberal and first Francophone Prime Minister deserves recognition. Liberals would govern the country with the coalition created by Wilfred Laurier in 1896 for the better part of the next century. This also marked the beginning of 15 years in the wilderness for the Conservatives until...

1911 (Federal): If Laurier laid the framework for Liberal success in 1896, Robert Borden carved the path for Conservatives in 1911. In the first major free trade election (take that 1988), Borden was able to win election on opposition to reciprocity with the United States. His coalition of soft nationalists in Quebec and social conservatives in English Canada remains the blue print for Tories today.

1917 (Federal): If Borden laid the frame for Conservative success in 1911, he laid the path to the opposition benches in 1917. While Borden would win the wartime election, his promise (which he would break) not to introduce conscription would haunt Conservatives in Quebec for generations.

1935 (Federal): The re-election of Mackenzie King in 1935 shows the political acumen of Canada's longest serving Prime Minister. With the other parties promising the moon, King promised to be the Prime Minister Canadians trusted. He won and would end up leading the country through World War II.

1985 (Ontario): The election of the Peterson-Rae coaltion in 1985 would mark the end of 42 years of PC rule. The Tory dynasty finally brought down by the incompetent leadership of Frank Miller and the controversy surrounding Bill Davis' pre-retirement decision on Catholic schools. Ontario elections were a non-issue until 1985. The next ten years would see all three major parties at the reins.

1995 (Ontario): The election of Mike Harris is still viewed with pangs of nausea by many progressives (myself included). However, the election of one of the first real neo-conservative governments in the country deserves noting. Mike Harris' cuts were way too deep and he left a province with deficits in everything from its budget to its schools, hospitals and roads. However, his rise from third place to first place is important, and should be recognized as such.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You Know They're Serious

When they make commitments for a point in the future when they are unlikely to be alive. Shit, the normal way to make a commitment you have no intention of keeping is to put it off 10-15 years when you're going to be out of office. This whole 2050 crap shows just how far we are from having an international agreement on climate change with some teeth.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Delightful Dismemberment of the New Democratic Hopescape

Apologies to Stephen Colbert for the title. Anyway, it has come to my attention that the Ontario New Democrats are engaged in some sort of leadership race. Apparently, we won't see any candidates for another week or so. I won't bother with going through the list of potential candidates, at least until we get a couple of announcements. However, it has also come to my attention that Buzz Hargrove is retiring as CAW President and there might be more than a coronation to replace him. So, here's the question: with both the Ontario NDP and the CAW in full out leadership races, is there a chance their volunteers might be a little distracted if and when the next federal election begins? I can only hope so.

Andrew Lang Campaign Update: The newly founded Toronto-Danforth Federal Young Liberals are proud to be hosting a timeraiser for Andrew Lang tomorrow night. What's a timeraiser you ask? Well, its a fundraiser but instead of paying money you pledge volunteer hours. The details are on facebook here. Lots of great prizes to be auctioned off so come out, pledge some hours for the Lang campaign and have some fun.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's Still The Economy Stupid

On a day that saw the TSX lose over 400 points it is wise to remember that with all this talk about the environment and Orders of Canada the issue that will probably make or break the next election is the economy.
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