January 26, 2006

Getting Off on the 'Right' Foot? PM v. Prez - Round 1

Throughout the entire campaign there have been chatter about how close Harper would bring Canada to the US. It’s no secret that the Bush administration relished the idea of a more conservative Prime Minister running our nation. And it’s no secret that Harper, in the past, has consulted and ‘bent over’ for American conservatives. However, that’s the past and working with the US, no matter who you are, is always more about treading lightly rather than holding hands in harmony. I would even go as far as saying that Mulroney’s relationship with Reagan was probably more taking it then giving, but he seemed to like it that way. Yet, therein lies several problems. On one hand, Harper wants a better relationship rather than the traditional antagonistic one our Liberal Prime Ministers share with Republican Presidents. However, he can’t get too close or otherwise he’s seen as a sock puppet and probably will get used (many times, in many ways). That would result in the Canadian population essentially disowning him, something Harper can’t afford in a minority government. On the other, he can’t withdraw from the relationship too much because then he’s seen as unwilling and he becomes exactly what he’s criticized the Liberals of being. And he risks losing any opportunity to negotiate – if there is such a thing with Bush – issues such as softwood lumber. That alone is a problem. The Bush administration has shown that it doesn’t negotiate in good faith very well. Already it seems Harper has gotten a taste of what it is like to be in this ‘relationship’. Not even a week into being Prime Minister-designate, he’s gotten a message about his plans to better monitor the Arctic area that we essentially control (so long as it is frozen). The US has basically told him off for wanting to be more militant over our sovereignty. From where I see it, Harper should expect more of this from the US. Especially since the current American administration are very hawkish and like to freely, push their weight around. Most major problems occur between our Prime Minister and the President when the President is a Republican. I think this has less to do with our Prime Ministers usually being Liberal but more with the fact that they are Republican. This is something Harper has to notice fast, if he hasn’t done so already. Harper needs to find a way to establish himself as more than just a conservative Prime Minister willing to bend backwards at every whim. Being a conservative may be a good starting point, but I doubt it really stands for much in the scope of it all. He has to do this because if he doesn’t establish himself fast and hard, the Americans will and may have already started to do, as minor as this Artic situation is. With the American administration already putting in their two-cents, unprovoked, we can be sure there will be a lot more coming. Having a better relationship with the US may cost more than Harper is willing to give and I wouldn’t doubt if we end up with more of the same from the US; nothing. The only difference is that the Prime Minister’s explanations may have less anti-American rhetoric.

January 24, 2006

Post-Election Thoughts

It’s fun times for Canada for the next while. Just thought I would pass on some thoughts about yesterday and what’s to come. Warning: I’m not going to substantiate anything I’m about to say.

  • I’m not surprised in the least that the Liberals held onto more riding than expected. A lot of public feedback on radio stations, over the internet and on the television confirmed my suspicion (in my own illogical method) that this was a vote against the Liberals and not for the Conservatives.
  • Anyone that thought Belinda was in for the fight of her life gave too much credit to Conservatives in Newmarket-Aurora. Belinda barely won over the Liberals when she was with the Conservatives in 2004. It was essentially her family’s, and her own, reputation that won it for her. This time around she had the combined power of the Liberal support and reputation behind her, handing her a nice comfortable win.
  • There was a very nice surprise with the increase in support and seats for the NDP. We (because I officially renewed my membership yesterday) were able to take some Conservatives and Liberal seats. The begging for strategic voting didn’t work for the Liberals this time around and that is probably going to work in our favour in the long run. We have a lot of work ahead of us still to expel our tax-raising, pure socialist image and Layton did a good job of laying out that foundation.
  • I expect there is going to be some of Joe Clark’s minority strategy seeping into Stephen Harper’s strategy. However, at least in the beginning, I think Harper will get away with it to some degree. He’s going to automatically bring up the GST cut. Being that no one wants to look like they oppose cutting the GST and no one wants to be blamed for bringing down the House after only a couple months of sitting and putting us through another election, the initial GST cut may get passed.
  • I’m guessing it will only be approximately 3 months before the MPs and CPC members who have been around since the Reform and Alliance days completely explode and beginning asking for repayment for their continued allegiance for the last decade-plus. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the social conservatives of the party probably struggled with notion of being silent on issues of SSM, abortion, etc. Now that they are in power, they’re going to come knocking and it’s not going to be quiet too much longer. Good luck dealing with them, Stephen!
  • I wonder if the Liberals and New Democrats have toyed with the idea of surprising Harper with a coalition government? I wouldn’t support that idea, but it would be funny if it happened. I would love to see the look on Harper’s face…
  • The party who’s going to have the last laugh is the Liberals. I could almost swear that Martin’s resignation was a planned move. As much as it pains me to say it, but as long as we continue to use the undemocratic first-past-the-post system, the Liberals will always be the party people look to first at election time. With that said, the news that will compete and could possibly be more interesting than the Conservative minority, will be the Liberal leadership race. It will be everywhere and be as well known and talked about as this past election. By the time it’s over, and the dust is settled, it will be about time to bring down the House. Going into the next election the Liberals, fresh off the leadership race and probably facing an ineffective Conservative party that has its right wingers all exposed, the Liberals will once again be the party to beat.
More thoughts might come to me later, but this is it for now. Have a good night.

January 15, 2006

Responding to a comment from last post

In my last post I asked the question about whether or not the new Liberal attack ads were negative in the sense that they were 'crossing the line' of ethical. It was a question that the media had asked before me and something the Liberals themselves had also asked. These two groups is where I got my cue from. However, I made the mistake of not being clear enough and I implied that I also believe that all the attacks in the ads were true. That was a mistake and Aaron Lee-Wudrick (ALW) called me on it. However, ALW didn't stop there in his comment. He continued on to make two other points. Two points that, despite all my respect for ALW, makes him sound somewhat of a Conservative talking head. His first argument was that I am wrong to think that the Conservatives are outside the mainstream thinking of the general Canadian population. His evidence of this is that the NDP haven't been above the 20% mark. Fair enough. However, if he is going argue that left-leaning people are out of touch lets really put it into perspective. Out of the the five most recognizable parties running in the federal election, four of them are generally considered centre-to-left. Their combined support in the polls reach into true majority territory. According to the Globe and Mail's poll tracker, as of yesterday, the four centre-to-left parties have a combined 61% support. And just to note 61% is more than 39% (CPC's support as of yesterday). I also understand that it can be argued that the Liberals are right-of-centre fiscally, but on social issues they are generally left-of-centre, and I would argue that when most people think of values, it is the social issues that are being considered. It is easy to lump all left-leaning people into one category or party, in this case. To do so would be an error. For the sake of simple argument, or to make a quick slash at lefties, it is a simple way to try and shut us down. Unfortunately for Conservatives, it's over-simplistic. The second point ALW tried to make in his comment was that Harper is "now centrist enough". Let me make it clear, Harper wasn't ever and never will be centrist in any way. He's a conservative (though I believe more fiscally then socially). All the talk of the Conservatives returning to Progressive Conservative-like territory is just that. I would point out all the policies he supports, etc. as evidence of this but I don't have to. Conservatives did it for me. "He's presenting a friendlier face to our fellow citizens in Ontario," says University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper, a long-time Harper ally and sometime confidante. "I think he hasn't changed his mind exactly, but packaged things so the rhetoric seems more friendly. The packaging has changed so it's not as scary."(1) "They have to talk this way to get elected," said Link Byfield, chairman of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. "I think a lot of conservatives honestly agree with that."(2) "We need to be able to win the hearts and minds of the majority of individuals. So I think we could go ahead and do a lot of things that would not be attractive to most people, and we would not change governments," Hermina Dykxhoorn said. "We can't have every issue. "Everyone knows that this is political and we will not be able to have every demand that we would individually have met. I'm happy to see they're doing what they are doing." (3) They aren't the only ones that have made mention of this as well. There have been academics and political commentators also pointing out that Harper and the Conservatives are essentially only running a better campaign this time. They've learned how to shut up the members that essentially played into the Liberals' hands in 2004 by making really blatant comments against abortion, gay rights, Quebec, etc. This time around, packing muzzles, the Conservatives haven't allowed the Liberals to play the 'hidden agenda' card. To argue that Harper or even the Conservatives are now 'centrist enough' is definitely not a reference to actualy policy or the beliefs of many supporters, but only to their image. And it's funny too to think that people aren't afraid of a Conservative majority since Conservatives were getting up in arms when The Star first mused about the possibility of a Conservative majority. There was even a very cautious approach by Harper to the topic of a possible majority in the latter English debate. Why are Conservatives concerned about the talk of a majority if Canadians aren't afraid? Could it be they are not prepared to fully govern and deal with the reality of their core? Or could it be that they too, much like last time, think that Canadians do not want a Conservative majority and may change their minds at the last minute to be 'safe' from such an outcome? Seeing as that the majority of Canadians do not share in the Conservative ideology, I'm putting money on the latter. No offense but I would hope that the ideologue-like rhetoric that was posted, was only posted because it is election time. It is one thing to tote the party line at a time like this, but it is definitely another to actually believe the rhetoric and pass it off as the word.

January 12, 2006

Are they negative if they're true?

The title is a question I have been pondering for quite awhile. While the new Liberal ads definitely fit the definition of negative campaigning my question is really if they are detracting in an ethical sense? Do they cross the line of being acceptable? This is not the first time Canadian politics has seen some brutal, in-your-face attack ads during a campaign. Many comparisons have been made to the failed and eventually withdrawn ads of Kim Campbell's PCs in 1993. However, in the 1993 case there were no real statements made about policy or comments by Chretien, rather they focussed in on Chretien's face and essentially made fun of his disability. This time around, Martin's crack(ed) team of wizards have played their ads with the inclusion of Harper's policies and quotes. Harper's team has struck back with negative ads of their own. The best one is the reflection of how it is possible the Liberals could justify running a negative ad when they have so many scandals. Well the answer is an easy one; Harper has said some pretty dumb things in his past about the country he wants to run and his policies are obviously out of touch with average Canadians. It is no secret that Canadians do not want to see a Conservative majority but only a minority, which essentially tells us this is method of voting against the Liberals, not for the Conservatives. However, all of this brings me back to my initial question; Are the ads negative, in a sense that they have 'crossed the line', if all they do is point out the truth? I don't think the answer to the question is just that simple. On one hand, I don't think it's wrong to point out that Harper has some obvious issues with the country he wants to govern and that his policies are not inclusive and are too far-right for Canadian values. However on the other hand, the tone of the ads are definitely in the vain of fear-mongering and the background picture of Harper does borderline fall into the style of ad that the 1993 PCs used against Chretien. I guess I'm really no closer to the answer.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)