December 23, 2008

Fleeting Curiousity on Senate Appointments

While most of the talk is focussed on 'senate reform' and 'patronage' - as it should be - or about whether or not Mike Duffy's appointment is a breach of ethics, I found something else curious.

It may be just a given but I haven't seen or heard too much on this subject. But in today's Vancouver Sun and yesterday at the Globe and Mail website there were specific comments about Wallin's and Duffy's appointments. Both papers made the comment that their appointments were made in part because of their objections to the coalition.

For many of the other people who were named this is a given but these two appointments were supposedly made because of their belief in senate reform regardless of their partisan views. Further to that, why does it really matter if any of these people sit specifically as 'Conservatives' if some were made outside of political affiliation? This is something both Wallin and Duffy, and others have agreed to do.

Many questions, indeed, surround this entire episode.

-- Sent from my mobile device

December 05, 2008

The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

The title of this post is a quote from Warren Bennis, a pioneer in the study and implementation of leadership. I used this quote as recognition of what my extremely intelligent and insightful wife had told me two nights ago; "expect status quo."

So what did she mean by this exactly? It's the underlying theme of the past, present and future of this current episode in Canadian politics. It perfectly describes the catalyst and the successive events, the prorogation and what we should expect going forward.

The catalyst was 'status quo' in the sense that is was more of the same hyper-partisan political gamesmanship. Harper and the Conservatives have shown that in almost all things they attempt they look to further erode many of the balances between parties, people and groups. Rather than govern for the good of all and in an accountable manner, they would rather divide, distort and deceive.

The catalyst of this parliamentary showdown was a combination of all these things. They made an attack on workers' rights and women's equity. Then in an attempt to distract from these issues they went after political party subsidies so they could either take their opponents out at the knees or use this as a theme in the event the opposition fought back. Their intent wasn't one based on economic concern or something equally just. Their intent was to use a crisis to justify some of their more extreme parts of their ideological and partisan proposals. These are ideas that are really attacks on democracy and that I have been referring to as 'vicious'.

What followed was much more of the same. The Coalition was deemed unconstitutional, undemocratic, and unpatriotic. Meanwhile, evidence of hypocrisy and opportunism were presented, verbal barrages against Quebecers' opinions were made and their was fleeing from the mandate set out by Canadians. All of this so Harper could appeal to the worst side of nationalism. Divide, distort and deceive.

The granting of the prorogation is status quo in the sense that our Governor General, right or wrong, played to the image of the figurative character. Arguably, too afraid to fulfill her duties as the "guarantor of responsible government" she allowed the lack of requirement of her position to influence her decision. Our Governor General, typically, is unnecessary. Most governments act responsibly in a general sense and put importance on governing and progress.

Mostly, Canadians have elected majority governments, which eliminates many gray areas within parliament. Therefore, it's easy to go decades - if not generations - without a significant requirement of the Governor General (as it should be). However, this lack of requirement has allowed for the entrenchment of the image of the antiquated and figurative role. No real lasting decision has been made by a Governor General in some time but that shouldn't mean a removed opinion from a constitutional or parliamentary debate has little value or shouldn't be weighed. This is especially true in times of minority governments where the mandate is one of compromise and consensus and an impartial mediator is warranted. Michaëlle Jean went with status quo and we now enter a period of just the same.

The immediate future is fairly predictable at this point. Since parliament is not sitting, little progress will be made. With the granting of prorogation, our government is essentially paralyzed. No ideas will be voted on, the mandate of the people will not be fulfilled, and in the event some sector or institution should suddenly take a turn for the worse no action can be made to counter it. It's not as though Canada's government, for many years (not just the last 2.5 or so), has actually made many major decisions or worked to solve some of our greatest challenges (poverty, health care, etc.) anyway. So not responding to a crisis or an unexpected (though all too predictable) occurrence is pretty much par for the course in contemporary terms.

Even in regards to what we should expect from our current batch of parties and leaders is pretty much the same. Harper will sound conciliatory and compromising but will act just the opposite. And we'll likely see more election-like campaign leading up to the Conservative budget. A budget that rejects much of what the majority opposition proposes and is interlaced with wonderful red herrings to distract us from the more vicious ideological and partisan inclusions. I also don't expect much more from the opposition leaders than what we've already seen.

Expect 'status quo'. And my wife, after all, was right.

Why Bennis' quote as the title? Because in the end it all comes down to leadership. Last night I had the opportunity to see John Ralston Saul do a speaking engagement at the University of Toronto. He's on tour to promote his latest book, A Fair Country. He spoke mostly to the themes and the more interesting aspects of his latest offering - this included the idea that Canada has become a nation led by 'functioning elites'. These elites have become addicted to complacency. They've lost the art of and the necessity of negotiation to develop answers but rely upon complex analysis when the solution is generally simple. They've become wrapped up in action that leads to nothing when a decisive response is required. And ultimately they begin to speak in a language that differs from that of the challenge that they face and this renders all else ineffective because communication becomes impossible.

John Ralston Saul was speaking in terms of Canadian history and identity - it wasn't supposed to be a critique of the current showdown in parliament. However, this showdown and all of what I've been describing as status quo is essentially a physical and political manifestation of his argument. Whether it's the fear of making a lasting decision, proposing a significant solution, spending time in constant argument and deliberation, battling ideologies - all of which can be applied to what we've just witnessed - our government is addicted to complacency; to the status quo. Leadership, real leadership, is something of the past and has been replaced with managerialism in some cases, something less and worse in others. Most of our current challenges were predictable and/or avoidable. But complacency and the lack of grasping the bigger picture has brought us to a situation where little is accomplished and ultimately, the disagreements we have are over items of little significance.

And for what is the first and likely only time in my life, I'm agreeing with Ronald Regan when he said, "Status quo, you know, that is Latin for the mess we're in."

December 02, 2008

A Retooled Reflection on the Liberal-NDP Coalition and Parliament

I want to take a moment to slightly change an outlook and further develop my view on the Coalition. Don't mistake any of this as a change of heart about this - Harper went too far and can no longer be trusted on this issue or any other, we know where his intentions truly lie. However, the Coalition needs to be smart and it needs to fulfill the mandate of the election.

I don't buy into the whole notion that Harper was elected as Prime Minister- he wasn't. Too many polls during the election indicated that Canadians disliked Harper as much as any other leader, but that the supposed "steady as she goes" policies and Dion's lacking attributed to the final results. Furthermore, we do not directly elect our Prime Minister. I also don't buy that the Conservatives won the election - they didn't. Yes, they came out ahead in the end but they still only managed a minority government. In other words, the mandate that the Conservatives were handed was essentially to be at the helm of a compromise and consensus government. Harper ignored that mandate and I believe that someone else now deserves to carry that mandate.

That can happen in one of two ways. The first, which is where I am slightly backtracking, is that the Harper can show his apparent sense of remorse for being viciously ideological and partisan by making a changing of the guard. Those that were responsible for making this play (Flaherty, Giorno et al.) are removed from their positions. Harper must also publicly admit his role in making this mistake and provide an honest reflection (and possibly, but not necessarily, step down as Prime Minister and Conservative leader). Furthermore, he should reach out to the opposition and provide them a number of senior and significant roles within the cabinet. Harper will then include the opposition within all developments of and make public as soon as possible the details of the coordinated economic plan to deal with the situation. It must be done in full view of the public so that no backroom or underhanded tactics can unfold. Canadians wanted leadership and consensus to deal with the current crisis and this I feel this would achieve both.

The second method is that the Coalition takes power at the first opportunity. They then take on the mandate of a compromise and consensus government. They stick to the original agreement of shrinking the cabinet and appointing six NDP cabinet members and with six secretaries. With the last eighteen positions they will find a suitable role for a number of Conservative MPs to also be apart of this cabinet. All cabinet positions must be given to elected members of the Parliament. The idea of this Coalition is to force the mandate of multi-partisan government that was given by Canadians and therefore must also include Conservative members for this to be honoured. This cabinet cannot include non-elected members (just in case there is any truth to the Elizabeth May rumour). Again, all developments should be done under public scrutiny in order to avoid power plays or any means of trying to undermine the process - possibly through the use of an extended formal agreement. Now is not the time for further partisan gamesmanship but a renewed focus on the situation at hand.

This government needs to work and it needs to be working now. Canadians need to feel as though this entire situation can lead to something better. So far it has only made many Canadians feel much more cynical towards our politicians. There is a lot of tension and bad blood between all the parties. However, if the Bloc is able to officially put aside separatism and the Liberals are able to put aside their disgust for the Bloc and work towards a common, positive goal, then I see no reason why this Coalition cannot put their legitimate distrust for Harper and certain members of the Conservatives, and vice-versa, to also work towards dealing with this issue. The latest election did not provide any one party the mandate to govern as they wish. And while the Conservatives definitely tried, in a way that was beyond unethical and undemocratic, there is still time to get the government back on track and focused on the economic issues.

To be perfectly honest, I don't see Harper opting for being a leader in this. I don't know if he is actually capable of admitting his mistakes, seeing past his hyper-partisanship, preference for political gamesmanship over governing, and getting over his grudges. And therefore, I believe the best possible situation for Canada, at this moment, is the Coalition taking power and including, within the framework of an official agreement, members of the Conservatives.

December 01, 2008

On the Latest Conservative Talking Point and Leadership Issues

Conservative Talking Point: After flipping back and forth between CTV Newsnet and CBC Newsworld, it has become clear the Conservatives are going to indirectly accuse the Coalition as sell-outs to the Bloc Quebecois. All they've been saying is, "what did it cost to get the Bloc onside?"

The fact of the matter is that Quebec isn't isolated from Canada and vice-versa. What's going on in Quebec will have an impact on Canada to some degree, however, if Canada isn't healthy it's guaranteed that Quebec isn't either. Gilles Duceppe knows this and so does every other separatist. At this point, as Canada goes so does Quebec. If there is going to be a recovery, coast to coast, it is going to take all provinces, territories and regions working together.

Yes, Duceppe is a separatist running a separatist party. However, Duceppe's main job as head of the BQ, at this point in time, is to make sure Quebec's interests are listened to and addressed. Separatism is a low priority amongst Quebecers. Just ask Marois or Dumont - who have essentially dropped talk about separation. It is in Quebec's interest, who is mainly represented by the BQ, to be involved in and benefit from a Coalition that is looking to make economic progress.

I would also argue that since the BQ, in its current incarnation, is really nothing more than a regional representative - either by necessity or by concession - other Canadian regions will also benefit from BQ's involvement. The Coalition will specifically look to create equity between regions - whatever Duceppe asks for other regions will receive something comparable and/or equitable. The one thing this Coalition will try to do is alienate the West and this is one way to do it.

Let's not forget Dion's role in the Clarity Act and how much Duceppe detests it. And likewise, there is no love for Duceppe from Dion. These two men have had to put a lot aside to be able to work together for at least eighteen months. But the one thing Dion would NEVER do is make any concessions that would strengthen the separatist cause. Dion also knows the risks - and there are many, politically and federally - to working on the same side as the BQ. Neither Dion or Layton would have went into this without heavy consultation and a little on the defensive. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

And since we're talking about Dion...

Liberal/Coalition Leadership: I wouldn't necessarily disagree with the argument that Dion was rejected by voters. Not all voters mind you, but there is some indication that Liberal voters stayed home and that is enough to pay attention to this argument. What I think people should keep in mind is that under this Coalition it doesn't really matter who is Prime Minister. Why? Because it is a Coalition brought together under a common focus through concession and compromise (something Harper didn't attempt).

The decisions under this Coalition are being made through a group/team effort. That means the Prime Minister won't be the main or sole idea producer who is relying on his team to hash out details. Rather, the ideas are being developed in another format where one person cannot overrule the others. To try to do so would be political suicide and in violation of the agreement that was signed. This is also why when the new Liberal leader is chosen in May, the transition into the Prime Minister position will likely be smooth and have little (if any) effect on the operations of the government.

This does mean that the eventual new leader/Prime Minister, at least in the beginning, will not have the same privy afforded to them that Chretien had during his days as PM. They will, however, be front and centre of a functioning and progressive government working towards the betterment of all Canadians.

The Coalition Already has Proposed More and More Anonymous Liberal Sources

Coaltion Progress: This whole coalition thing has really taken off. If the Conservatives actually have some ideas they should probably begin talking about them immediately. If these reports are true, it shows that the opposition parties are extremely serious about going forward with the coalition in an attempt to deal with the economic crisis. For the Conservatives to do anything (e.g. ask for a prorogue, further delay confidence motions, etc.) but put out a real economic plan, that can take effect ASAP would be tantamount to admitting they either have not the willingness to do what's necessary and what Canadians have asked of them or they are devoid of any ideas of how to deal with the current situation. Unless an actual plan is immediately put forward the Conservatives will be admitting that they are incapable of governing and the proposed coalition would be necessary.

Update @ 11:38am: CBC Newsworld is reporting that the coalition has already developed a economic plan and will possibly be making it public shortly. I'll add a link when one comes available.

Ivison on Ignatieff: In regards to John Ivison's posts that keep popping up - one that mentions Ignatieff is not in agreement with the coalition and another that Ignatieff is going to be appointed leader - over at the National Post, let's keep in mind he's quoting the ever popular anonymous Liberal source. My own anonymous party contacts have told me Ivison is either writing a bunch of garbage and attaching the source tag to make it sound legit or he's talking to someone outside of Ignatieff's camp that doesn't have access to details. Booya! There you go! Anonymous Liberal sources for all is what I believe. Everyone should have one so they can print random, inane quotes on any topic with any slant they like. I wonder if I can ask my anonymous computer programmer friends to develop some type of bot that would just randomly produce anonymous Liberal insights?

Check out these links for more on Ivison and his posts:

Updated @ 4:29pm: Proof-positive that Ivison is wrong...

November 30, 2008

It's Time For, "Who's Playing Politics and Who's Trying to Govern?"

One of these two are playing politics and another is trying to govern and lead Canada through harsh economic times. Can you guess which is doing what?

Conservatives:

Recently while in Peru meeting with other international leaders, Stephen Harper, Prime Manager of Canada, talked openly about the need to implement a plan that would create fiscal stimulus, protect jobs and workers' pensions. These measures would be comparable to other industrial nations' plans. Upon his return to Canada, the Conservatives proposed their 'Ways and Means' fiscal update that presented ideological and partisan proposals. These proposals offered little for the economy but much to their base support. The proposals were meant to subvert workers' rights, women's equality, and the finances of the opposition parties but framed them as necessary in a time of economic crisis. It was also proposed to sell of Crown assets in an attempt to artificially and temporarily balance future budgets. When the opposition did their job and held the Conservatives accountable, the governing party balked and has now begun crying foul even though Stephen Harper supported similar actions when he was in opposition. Furthermore, in a complete act of desperation the Conservatives unethically (and possibly, illegally)taped at least one NDP caucus meeting and released it to the media with completely inane and hypocritical talking points attached. Lastly, to boot, the Conservatives have considered shutting down parliament in order to avoid having to deal with the concerns of the opposition and Canadians over the economy.

Opposition Parties (Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois):

The opposition have remembered that they are the majority. Combined they hold more elected seats and received more votes than the Conservatives. In the face of a brutally poor proposal that didn't address the economic crisis or the needs of Canadians, the opposition got together and have begun the process of hashing out a coalition. This coalition would see, at least in the near future, the opposition parties drop partisan agendas and past arguments to work together and attempt to put out a meaningful plan that would aid Canadians and help alleviate some of the impact of this crisis.

November 29, 2008

For Harper, the Corruption of Power (or the Want of it) is Absolute

Politics - Ideology - Power

For Harper, only those three things hold any interest. The recent fiscal update/mini-budget proposal thingy exposed that. Harper and Flaherty proposed to bankrupt the opposition parties, override any recent and ongoing contract negotiations with federal civil service employees while taking away their right to strike, and didn't propose any measures to help stimulate the economy. Harper's ideology, joy of political games, and want of power has put him into a position where he confuses management with leadership, has a narrow vision of Canada and has no idea how to actually govern (even if he wanted to, which he doesn't). And this is more painfully obvious than ever.

The way I see, Harper believed he would get the best of the opposition by trying put them into a corner. He proposed a completely unreasonable and undemocratic budget with the subsidy-removal proposal (a red herring) in hopes of being able to paint the opposition parties as only self-interested if or when they voted against it. He would then go into an election with a money advantage and a nice little theme too boot. Or maybe at least one party would support it to avoid an election and in the end the opposition parties would be technically broke for quite some time.

Unfortunately for Harper, the opposition focused on the lack of stimulus and the public didn't seem to buy his red herring, either. The opposition began openly talking about a coalition and I think Harper got somewhat concerned. So this morning the Conservatives removed the subsidy-removal piece - claimed it was in there by accident - and waited for talks of a coalition to fade away, get the support of at least one opposition party, and still claim the opposition were only interested in themselves when the economic update passed.

Unfortunately for Harper, the opposition only seemed more determined to form a coalition. This was made clear with the Liberals preparing to make a non-confidence motion this coming Monday. Now suddenly Harper is scrambling to figure out where he went wrong. I think it's pretty obvious that Harper didn't plan for this outcome. He must have believed that somewhere along the way at least one of the opposition would have faltered. But they didn't. And now Harper's only response is, "I need more time." He underestimated the resolve of the opposition parties to see something done about the economy - likely a plan that somewhat follows the lead of every other western nation and the advice of respected economists - and now he's unsure as to what to do.

Out of his three interests, one holds a great more sway than the other two; power. His breaking of his own fixed-date legislation, breaking election financing laws and so forth, attest to this. So Harper and Flaherty put out their economic update chock-full of ideological and political postures hoping to use the economic crisis as justification. Ultimately though it was about getting more power - through bankrupting the opposition or holding another election with a stronger financial position and newly minted theme. Harper has never been this close to a majority before and he wants it so much and so he seems willing to do whatever it takes.

When this didn't work out and Harper saw that he might lose power, he balked. There is no way he is just going to hand over power. Harper knows he's on a tight leash with his base. He hasn't been able to win a majority through three elections. The last election especially hurt him. In spit of pandering to Quebec and other groups, playing the role of moderate centrist, wasting $300m in the face of a deficit, etc. It didn't pay off and he's still stuck not being able to fulfill the wishes of those that have been waiting for ages for an opportunity to inflict the rest of Canada. Since he hasn't been able to get the right to the promised land, he's been relying on little bits of ideology and politics to keep himself propped up. These will only get you so far, however. For him to simply pass power over to the opposition would likely be his proverbial death knell as leader of the Conservatives.

Harper, like some have speculated, may have considered passing power to the opposition to let the economic crisis take them down rather than him. However, there are too many risk factors involved with this. For example, what happens if all the stimulus pumped out by other nations has a positive effect? Then the opposition parties will get credit. What if the coalition proposes a package combined with new regulations and jobs are saved and Canada shows some strength? Then the opposition gets credit. What if the opposition does their due diligence and hires independent audits of the government's budget? Well, just take a trip back to Ontario, 2003? What if...? What if...? And therein lies the problem for Harper. Giving up power is likely too much for him but the prospect of never getting it back? Well, maybe if Hell froze over, but even then...

As for what Harper is going to do now? I'm not certain. Maybe he will take the risk of letting the opposition coalition get buried by the economic crisis, though I seriously doubt it. Will he make a considered and reasonable proposal to deal with the economic situation? I doubt that as well. Being on short leash may let you speak like a Keynesian convert but it doesn't mean you actually get to act like one without some repercussions. I suspect they've delayed the idea of using a stimulus package until it's absolutely necessary in hopes that Canada will reap the benefits of other countries'. They want to play the role of bench warmer in this situation. So while the US, England, Germany and others are out on the field sacrificing themselves to win the title, Canada still gets the championship ring for just being on the team. No work, but all the glory. And with that in mind, I figure that Harper and his crew are going to use the extra week to come up with some proposal ideas that look like something but amount to doing little or nothing (i.e. The Clean Air Act). That way they can look the part of concerned and active government but still hold face with their base support. And in the end, Canada is still left devoid of a governing party with any vision or leadership when it comes to governing.

November 25, 2008

Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader

I figure it's time that I throw my support behind one of the Liberal leadership candidates. Can anyone guess who it's going to be? Well if you read the heading and then applied some form of reason, you would be correct; I'm backing Michael Ignatieff.

This wasn't an easy decision for me. In the past I have looked at Ignatieff as an outsider who was brought in by party insiders with the sole purpose of taking over. He was to be a pawn. His speeches back in '06 made me cringe because he seemed to say a lot of the right things (despite a few gaffes) without any genuine understanding of what the party truly needed. In many ways he and his campaign very much reminded me of Paul Martin when he was running for leadership and during his two elections - and trust me, I haven't ever been a fan of Paul Martin (even to the point I once mused at the prospect of him being trounced at the polls so he would be removed as leader). There was a lot of rhetoric from Ignatieff, as there was with Martin, but nothing substantial to back it up. And with all of this tagged onto Ignatieff, he obviously didn't represent the next generation of Liberals, the Liberals that are looking for relevance to their views and lives.

However, I have always had some admiration for Ignatieff. During my undergraduate years at Waterloo, I had the opportunity to see him speak on human rights and I was extremely impressed. I then read his book "The Rights Revolution" and was impressed even more. Both of these accounts presented a man with passion, belief and understanding. These exposed him as someone that envisioned something greater for the world. In those moments he was a leader with a vision. So when he came back home and was propped-up as the next leader and spoke without any of those things, I wondered what had happened to the person I admired just a few years earlier?

No one is perfect and between those two periods of time Ignatieff had made some mistakes of sort, such as supporting the war on Iraq. He has been called on them over and over, and somewhat brow-beaten over some of these mistakes. And from that maybe his saying all the right things and acting the right way was an attempt to avoid providing more material to his critics. Don't take this as my attempt of creating an excuse for the man. If anything it's another shot. One thing I believe leaders need to be able to do is to reflect on their mistakes, admit when they were wrong and correct themselves. They need to be able to continually learn and evolve. And this is something Ignatieff has begun to do.

The last few times I have seen Ignatieff speak, both in person and through the media, I have seen a return to the passionate academic I admired. Along with it has come a renewed sense of confidence that has allowed him to admit his mistakes and genuinely learn from them. He no longer is the pawn to a group of Liberal insiders as he has come into his own as a politician on his own terms. He truly is showing his leadership qualities, beginning with honest attempts at party unity. Already he has shown the ability to unite Liberals along the left/right divide, and from the old Martin/Chretien sides. He represents an honest return to (small-l) liberal ideals and along with it a return to the political centre.

For the next few years the Liberal Party has a lot of rebuilding to do. It has to reconnect with grassroot members and re-prove its relevancy to ordinary Canadians. It has to change the way it develops policy and fundraise. It needs to re-establish itself as the 'big tent' party that balances the needs and concerns of all Canadians, not just central Canada or urban Canada. It needs to make a generational transition. Will Ignatieff be able to do all these things? I don't know. The task is so large it may take more time than one leader has to do it all. However, I do believe that Ignatieff understands how daunting the task is and is willing to begin the process of renewal. And at the same time I believe he is our best option to stand-up for Canada against the focus on power and ideology of Harper and the Conservatives. Ignatieff has proved he can do this during the last few years as Deputy Leader within the House.

Do I think Ignatieff is the saviour of the party as many seem to believe we need? No. But then again, I think a saviour is the last thing we need right now. An omnipotent leader would make us forget about all that is broken within the party and when that leader faded away we would still be left dealing with the mess of pieces. What we need is someone that can competently fill the gap between the present and the next generation. Ignatieff does this. While I think Dominic LeBlanc is qualified, he is better suited to be that next generation leader at this point and with some more experience he will be well positioned to be just that. Bob Rae is more than qualified and competent to be the Liberal leader he does come with 'baggage' (as cliche as that has become). If Rae were chosen I still believe the Liberal Party could succeed but it would come at a greater cost of resources, finances and time. All of which the party has little of these days. Ignatieff has a lifetime of varying experiences and without being a life-long politician and therefore comes much more baggage-free. Ignatieff will make an amazing leader combining world experiences, academic knowledge, journalistic curiousity, etc. He is displaying qualities that no other leader in Canadian politics has. He still is that outsider but that is exactly what we need right now.

And with that I am officially endorsing Michael Ignatieff for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

November 14, 2008

Harper Preaches "Be pragmatic, not ideological" and Exposes Himself

...and why would that be, Mr. Harper?

If you have to ask your supporters, caucus or whomever to put aside ideology in tough times, that should indicate a problem. Either the ideology is 'too scary' and not likely going to be acceptable to the general public. Or the ideology doesn't work. In this case it's one of those 'a little from column A and a little from column B' scenarios.

The problem with column A is that the right-wing ideology isn't acceptable to the majority of Canadians. There's a reason why Harper still can't win a majority despite the Liberals pushing a good plan at the wrong time and having one of their weakest showings ever. Voters would rather not vote at all than vote for Harper. And with Harper's only focus being the elusive majority, he needs a more pragmatic, faux-centrist appearance to get it. Unfortunately, these people looking for the hard, right turn have been waiting very patiently to get their way. They handed the reigns to Harper to lead them to the promised land where they could ravage social and economic policies, but he has yet to deliver. That doesn't mean the faithful are willing to wait any longer.

The problem with column B is that it is partially the fault of the right-wing ideology that the world is in the economic crisis in the first place. However, there are still those - many that support the Conservatives - that still cling to the pure free market, libertarian (neo- or not), Chicago-school or Calgary-school ideologies that pose a risk to stability. Harper is one of them. Leading up to, during and even shortly afterward, Harper still clung to those right-wing views. Not until other nations realized they had no choice but to switch gears did Harper follow suit and now is singing a different tune. How could he, while every other right-wing government around the globe had to concede defeat still push the agenda? He couldn't. To do so would have seen him look like the strange loner as there is also the pressure of image weighing on him. The last thing he doesn't want to be seen as is the Prime Minister that oversaw the loss of millions of jobs and entire industries by sticking to his guns while everyone else attempted to save them.

Therein lays the real Harper. Out of both columns A and B, the common denominator is image or electability. Since he is in a minority situation, Harper is all about looking good in hopes he can one day capture his desired majority. He preaches pragmatism for no other reason than to make himself more appealing. This isn't a man with real concerns about the situation or the average Canadian. This is about a man with a vision of a more conservative Canada that has greater appeal to him and those around him. This is ultimately about creating his vision of Canada, not accepting Canada as it is. To do get there he needs to win more seats, he needs more power. And so, he puts on his centrist mask, begs for more time from his core and preaches about pragmatism over ideology - for now.

Flaherty Must Be Getting Dizzy From All His Turning Around

What it all really comes down to is that Flaherty really isn't qualified for the job of Minister of Finance. The biggest issue is that he's a politician first and foremost. He's a politician that also happens to have some knowledge of financing - too bad knowing isn't the same as understanding. But who am I to say anything? I'm not an economist or an accountant. Though I do understand the poor economics of rushing to cut the GST rather than cutting income taxes. I also understand his reasoning and solution, for breaking his promise on taxing income trusts, was flawed and so forth.

When Flaherty starts talking about his 'plans', I just cringe. Selling off items such as the CN Tower is a short term fix that is tantamount to Harris (with Flaherty) selling off the 407. It's a short-term political posture that has no benefit in the long term. There's nothing to gain except Flaherty being able to say he balanced the budget - this year. Which is the point, for him.

This is why he's spinning around like a top with his comments. Though that also seems to be a problem with him since he seems to like blurting out comments without thinking. Which really means he's just as poor at being a politician.

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Flaherty on running a deficit (Oct.08/08):

In responding to the worsening global financial crisis that has slowed economic growth in Canada and elsewhere, “we'll do what we have to do, so long as we remain economically prudent. We're sure not going to run a deficit ... We will maintain a surplus in Canada and we will continue to pay down debt.”

Asked if running even a small deficit would be bad in these difficult times, Mr. Flaherty said flatly: “Yes, it would be.”

Flaherty on running a deficit (Oct.22/08):
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is leaving the door open to the possibility that the Conservative government could run a budget deficit in future years as a result of the current economic crunch...But in an interview with CBC-TV yesterday, Flaherty was less certain about balancing the budget in the 2009-10 fiscal year or thereafter.

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Flaherty on reaching a balanced budget (Oct.29/08):

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the federal government will do what it can in this challenging economic time to keep the budget balanced, but it won't do so at any price.

"We're not going to engineer a surplus on the backs of Canadian families and Canadian businesses for the sake of being able to say we have a surplus," Flaherty told CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live on Wednesday.

Flaherty on reaching a balanced budget (Nov.13/08):
The federal government is looking to sell capital assets to help balance the books, a sale that could include the CN Tower, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said today.

November 06, 2008

Optimism - the Deciding Factor in Obama's Historic Win

The concept that people only vote these days 'against' something rather than 'for' has become rather cliché. The three most recent Canadian federal elections were apparently all won by those who weren't what voters were running from. The same argument has been applied to several of the more recent provincial elections. This isn't to say that there isn't merit in these claims as I've even been known to toss it out there. However, I have my serious doubts that it has become the norm as so many bloggers, pundits and other politicos would make it appear to seem.


For me, the first evidence of this is Obama's historic win this past Tuesday. While so many have talked about this being a win based on the anti-Bush vote, I believe it was a win based on the change and optimism that Obama represents.

Why did I emphasize 'optimism'? Because that is what really separated Obama from McCain. Both of these candidates represented change. Obama represented greater change but McCain really is the Republican maverick who often did things his own way and without the blessing of his party. McCain would have surely run the government differently from Bush Jr.

With Obama's focus on optimism, unity and hope, American's were provided with a message that has been lacking for almost a decade and they voted for that as much as they voted for change and/or voting against the legacy of the Bush/Cheney Republicans. Though it does go beyond this as well. As Obama had to overcome the racial barriers that still exist in America.

Leading up to election day, Obama was touted as having anywhere from an 8-15 point lead in the polls and yet, he only won by 4 points in the popular vote. This in part can be attributed to those Americans that will pledge support for an ethnic candidate in public but in private do the opposite. As well, identity politics is alive and well in the US and this wouldn't be possible or it wouldn't matter if those barriers didn't exist.

I am always blown away by how many 'groups' the campaigns focus on in the US. During election night I heard about Hispanics and sub-groups such non-Cuban Hispanics and Cuban Hispanics within Florida or elsewhere, working-class whites, middle-class whites, middle-class females, African Americans and all of its sub-groups, etc. Canadian political analysis usually focuses on males, females, French, Anglophone, urban, rural, etc. Race is hardly at hand whereas race seemingly makes up the majority of groups identified within the US. And this is because the barriers between races are still ever-present.

Let's not also forget that Obama had to win the support with those that don't share his views. Obama supports civil unions for LGBTs, a partial firearm ban, stem-cell research, etc. These and other positions that he holds aren't very popular with many of the groups that supported him. However, Obama was able to overcome these differences of opinion and still gain support of the people.

For Obama to be able to achieve his historic win he had to be much more than just a candidate for change. As McCain himself represented change as well. If it wasn't for McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate, this race would likely have been much closer (though I still think Obama could have pulled it off). With the economy in bad shape, Iraq going poorly, and so forth, things were up for grabs and change was what people were after and both candidates offered. However, McCain makes this difficult for Obama because he has credibility that crosses party lines.

However, Obama also offers hope and unity. He offers optimism. His campaign focuses on these themes just as much as he does change. McCain on the other hand, knowing he needs all the support he can get, chooses the socially conservative Palin to guarantee he gets the far-right votes of the republican base. Palin also serves as another potentially historic (first female vice-president) and generational-shift candidate, the things that Obama himself represent. Instead, McCain's selection of Palin was really a cynical, political move and takes some of his 'change' credibility away. Worse than that, Palin's views are intricately woven with the type of positions that Bush Jr. and Co. have been championing for the last eight years. The type of views that is now synonymous with fear, division and distrust. And thus, Americans were left with a choice between change (McCain) or change-plus (Obama). We now know the outcome.

Obama's win wasn't won simply by not being Bush Jr., there was too much for him to overcome if that were the case. If it were only change that American's were looking, McCain offered that as well. American's wanted something to look forward to. For too long they have been told to be afraid of everything and everyone around them. They have their own concerns these days, they shouldn't have to worry that their government is adding to that pressure. While McCain offered a change in approach to almost all facets of America, Obama went further. And so Americans voted for optimism - the premise of Obama's campaign - and what allowed him to overcome so much, whether it be race, difference of social view, age, party, and achieve his historic win.

October 31, 2008

Renewal from the Ground Up (Liberal 308 and Beyond)

This past March I began to question, along with many others, the Liberal leadership's willingness to listen to the grassroots. There seemed to be some desire for an election based on the many gaffes made by the Conservatives and the direction they were taking us in. However, none of the upper Liberals would pull the plug. This left many people disillusioned and frustrated with the Liberal Party. Seven months later we now know what that level of discontent meant for the Liberals...

With a dismal turnout at the polls, an immediate stepping down of the leader and supporters still right pissed, the Liberal Party is back to where they started several years ago. Once again we're gearing up for another leadership race, divisions threaten still, and policy and fundraising initiatives are being largely ignored. However, a bright light of sorts is beginning to shine through the fog with the creation of Liberal 308.

Liberal 308's mandate is about real renewal of both the party and its values. It's about rebuilding all 308 local associations, introduce greater accountability to the grassroots with decision making, develop new fundraising initiatives and provide tools that will lead to better election readiness and success.

The party's last shot at renewal was supposed to come after the development of the Red Ribbon Report. The report recommended big changes in policy and outreach. However, after some consideration, I believe the flaw of the report was that all changes were to come top down. It was supposed to be up to the senior Liberals to implement the recommended changes. Liberal 308 is looking to do the opposite. If the party won't make the changes for us, then we'll just have to go to them. That is why a 'movement' such as Liberal 308 is so important. The grassroots cannot afford to any longer hope for the best. If we want to be heard and given regard then we have to force this issue to the front of the agenda.

Last night I had the opportunity to review a proposal from a good friend and fellow Liberal. While he has yet to officially get involved with Liberal 308, the proposal he's looking to present, at the LPC(O) conference in November, essentially addresses the same issues and ideas. His proposal refers making changes in the way associations are supported, how fundraising is conducted and making changes as to how grassroot initiatives are addresses by the central party. While his proposal is about making the initial changes within just Ontario, his hope is that eventually the changes will go national.

What the Liberal Party needs to realize is that while they have not yet become irrelevant, irrelevance is where they are heading. If you're no longer willing to listen and reach out to those that make up the backbone of the party, you can forget ever getting general voters to jump on board. It's no longer good enough to just develop policy and ideas on the spot and ignore the concerns of everyday Canadians. The Liberal Party needs to be open and accountable and be able to present a true vision for Canada. There is a desire for that type of leadership; the leadership that used to course through the Liberal Party. The Conservatives and the NDP have shown they aren't able to take on that role, which means there is an opportunity for the Liberals to get back to where they once were. It will come in the process of renewing the party and reaching out to the grassroots. That is why, more now than ever, grassroot initiatives such as Liberal 308 and the proposal for the LPC(O) are vital.

October 17, 2008

“When the heroes go off the stage, the clowns come on” (Just another perspective on the Liberal Party)

Like so many others I am sick and tired of hearing from 'anonymous Liberal sources' or other hacks about what the party is or isn't doing and what should or shouldn't happen. The fact of the matter is that all this nonsense and backstabbing was supposed to have been dealt with when we elected a new leader and yet it seems nothing has changed and no lessons have were learned two years ago.

Simply put, these so-called 'strategists', 'insiders', 'senior officials' or whatever they are, need to be removed from their positions (from here on in, they will collectively be referred to as 'clowns'). This is the second time these clowns have brought the party down through with their childish bickering and want of total control. First they were willing to divide the party when they weren't getting their way while Chretien was leader and Prime Minister and now they willing to undermine Dion because he wasn't the leader they chose and wanted to do things differently. So much for unity, respecting the will of the membership, reaching out to the grassroots, transparency and renewal - all things that were apart of the Red Ribbon Report.

Well, I hope these clowns got exactly what they wanted. Through their actions they brought down a respectable leader, killed membership and voter confidence, and are making us go back to the drawing board again. They've wasted two years of trying to rebuild. The best thing we could do is remove most of these clowns and replace them with people who actually care about the state of the party and providing an option for true representation in Canada. The party and Canadians cannot afford to have a Liberal Party that is being hijacked by those that are more interested in themselves and their need for control.

Dion deserves much more respect than he is getting or has ever gotten from these clowns. The party and its membership deserve even more. Even guys that have come out of the woodwork, like Joe Volpe, should be shown the door. Volpe is one of those guys that have been taking aim at Dion likely since the leadership race. Too bad for Volpe as he has little credibility when it comes to leadership and therefore he too should either shut up or get out. Guys like this, who are willing to divide the party, should just exit stage left. It's time they begin working as a team or face being cut. Otherwise, the Liberal Party, as a whole, will fall apart and become something of a joke - just like the clowns that go on after the heroes have left the stage.

October 14, 2008

Campaign Notes: Sign Watching

So Andrew McKeever has officially stepped down but that hasn't kept a couple local NDPers from putting up Jack Layton signs throughout the riding. Since McKeever stepped down after the nomination period ended his name is still on the ballot. From what I understand if he were to win the election, a by-election would be called immediately. However, the national NDP will still collect their $1.75/vote for McKeever. In otherword, McKeever can't benefit but the NDP can. Hence, the appearance of Jack Layton: 'Toronto-Danforth' and 'Team Toronto' signs within Durham.

This has created some chatter though. For one thing, many of the Layton signs do not contain an authorization. Elections Canada has been notified and word is that they are likely going to be pulled. Being this was a holiday weekend, it seems that that won't happen until election day sometime. Another thing is that there has been some commenting about how the signs are unwelcome. Several locals I have talked with - not all Liberals but does include NDPs - have mentioned that Jack Layton isn't running in Durham and his signs have no place in Durham. As well, the signs are for his Toronto-Danforth riding. Many comments have implied that it feels like an encroachment of the big city.

Will the signs make a difference? I'm having my doubts. The situation with McKeever is well known at this point and the appearance of the Layton signs may serve to just remind people that Layton defended this guy and still hasn't officially denounced the nasty comments. I understand the purpose of the signs, which is to motivate the core support to vote NDP no matter what, but I can't see it doing much more than confusing people and coming across as an elaborate prank. Besides, the rest of the Durham candidates have put in too much work - some much more than others - at getting their names out and building up support.

Whatever, I guess we all now know what inegrity is worth: $1.75.

October 09, 2008

Campaign Notes: CTV Playing Politics? (The 'Does This Still Need to be a Question?' Edition)

A member of the local Liberal campaign team and several other, non-partisan people I know have signed up to receive the CTV news feed to their Blackberries. When looking at the feeds, one of them noticed that they were getting Conservative feeds shortly after the Cons made an announcement. However, feeds for the NDP and Liberals weren't arriving until several hours after their announcements were made. When mentioned, another person mentioned they were having the same issue and in fact, both feeds times had matched. This was then compared to others and they too had the same experience. One of them asked about service providers and they weren't all with the same company.

For example: The Conservatives made an announcement on Sept. 22nd at approximately 10am; the feed was sent within twenty minutes. On the other hand, the Liberals made their platform announcement at 11:00 and it was sent out at almost noon. However, the NDP made news this morning and the feed on them wasn't sent until the early afternoon. From the account of the news feeds on the Blackberries, this isn't unusual. Conservative headlines are arriving sooner than the other parties' headlines.

Maybe it's only a coincidence that these CTV news feed subscribers are receiving their feeds on the opposition much later than that of the Conservatives. However, they're not all with the same provider. Then again, maybe Andrew Krystal was on to something afterall...

Update (10/09/08 @ 11:15pm):
I'm not going to play any violins or anything like that. However, I will say that if there were any doubts, Duffy just showed his true (blue) colours. I won't link to the video of Dion asking to restart his interview a couple times. I won't promote something that is so obviously designed to smear a man. I completely believe that what Duffy did was despicable and likely ethically questionable. And it must be bad when the Cons and Duffy are being called out by other media that are hardly Liberal friendly. While some people have questioned how many other interviews Dion has had to restart, I think a better question is how many other leaders have had to ask for clarifications and do-overs in their taped interviews. Retakes happen all the time and I can guarantee that each of the leaders have probably had at least one or two. The difference here is that Duffy is still likely irked that he got blasted by May for being a Conservative shill. Or maybe Duffy was hoping to distract Canadians from the fact Conservatives have fudged numbers for Afghanistan and haven't been transparent on the issue.

So what does this all mean? Well, Duffy exposed himself for what he really is and has likely lost his integrity and respect. For the Conservatives, I'm guessing the way they went after Dion, it's possible that they just provided the catalyst for many people to go with strategic voting against them. Many non-Conservatives already believe Harper to be bully and he just proved them all right and probably convinced those that were also unsure.

Harper's not a leader. Harper is the kid in the school hallway that pushes others into locker doors as he walks by and laughs, alone. These type of people confuse negative attention with respect and end up being forgotten by their peers or are only remembered for pulling off stunts such as mocking a facial deformity attacking someone's hearing impairment.

October 05, 2008

Campaign Notes: And Talking About the Media and Politics (Re-Redux)

(Note: Updates can be found at the end)

Extremely early this morning, I raised a question about CTV and their wireless news feeds. Something about sending out Conservative-related feeds fairly fast while dithering on the the opposition parties'. To continue with the theme of the media and politics, I wanted to look at Metroland Durham Region Media Group, a subsidiary of Torstar and who publishes my local paper, Clarington This Week and the website durhamregion.com.

To anyone in the region, it doesn't surprise when they shill for the Conservatives. During the 2007 Ontario Election they published an 'editorial' written by the local Conservatives. How do I know this? I called the paper during the election to ask where it came from and they told me. So it's no surprise that when Bryan Ransom's response on manufacturing wasn't included in the Sept.13th paper, local Liberals cried foul.

I decided that we should inquire and I wrote the editor. He replied that the piece was misplaced and then overlooked but that the paper would print it ASAP with an attached apology. They did just that on the 17th. For the next response, the paper asked for positions on Afghanistan. Bryan Ransom's reply went in and it was published on Sept.18 - as were all the candidates' responses. Online, all the responses were about Afghanistan. In print, however, all but Bev Oda's responses were about Afghanistan; her's was about industry and it differed from her manufacturing response.

I inquired with the editor once again but this time was not given a reply. Yet, I'm still hearing from others that there is going to be a printing of Oda's Afghanistan response sometime this week. A cynical person might look at this as an intentional mistake to appease Oda's campaign. Afterall, when the paper printed Ransom's manufacturing response it was essentially a stand-alone article, despite the editorial apology. And now Oda is going to have her very own stand-alone piece. I'm interested to see if her industry piece turns out to be the same as her economic response that comes out in two weeks. If not, then there will be some questions about why she had a random industry response on file with the paper.

On the other hand, this could be just the poor work of an editorial team. Two big screw-ups with candidates' responses, missing headshots above articles even though the required headshots were on the previous page, etc. leads one to wonder about the editorial team.

Update (09/24/08): So I was correct. Oda did get her very stand-alone piece with an editorial apology. However, the best part was that her response was printed right above her brand-spanking-new election ad! A double Oda bonus brought to Durham by the good people at Clarington This Week. I also noticed on their durhamregion.com site that even though Ransom's manufacturing response was eventually printed it has yet to appear online.

Update (10/05/08):Once again Clarington This Week has possibly shown its true (blue) colours. Just to clarify; this week's candidate response was on the economy. Now, Oda had already kind of had an economy piece that was printed 'by accident' where her Afghanistan piece should have been. At the time I questioned whether or not this was an accident because it seemed strange that she would have a random response on industry printed that differed from her manufacturing one. I was willing to wait to see if maybe she handed in an economy piece early, that focused on industry, so her campaign wouldn't have to worry about doing it later. Turns out that her economy piece turned out to be very different from her random industry response. Obviously this begs the question, 'why did the paper have a random industry response on file from Oda?' None of the campaigns were asked to print an industry piece and her response wasn't a press release. So where did it come from? Me thinks something stinks...

I've written the editor in hopes of getting an explanation. I doubt my letter will get printed or placed online - they print very few and most end up online - but I also stated that doubt and only asked for the explanation. I'll update this post again if I get a response...

October 04, 2008

Warren, You Missed One Helluva Show! (Rise Against @ The Sound Academy)

It's too bad Warren missed the Rise Against concert last night. It was loud, energetic and it made my ears bleed in that good way. It was also a great getaway from the election scene that has been keeping me from sleeping over the last few weeks - although it wasn't entirely without politics as Rise Against and Thrice are both politically-charged bands. Anyway, I thought I would throw out a few thoughts on the show.

The first band to come out was The Gaslight Anthem who were performing in Canada for their first time. I had no expectations for this band because I had only heard of them but had yet to listen to any of their tunes. They put on a surprisingly good show. Their music is identifiably straight out of the New Jersey hardcore/punk scene that also produced bands like Thursday and Saves the Day. However, they mesh this with the sensibility of blue-collar rock (ala Bruce Springsteen) and they pull it off really well and it was nice change from the generic stuff that has come from this scene of late. They interacted with the crowd and were able to make a connection. I expect we'll all hear more out of these guys in the near future. In the meantime they definitely have at least one more fan.

The next band to play was Thrice. I had HUGE expectations for their performance because I am a big fan. It may even be safe to say that next to The Tragically Hip, they are my favourite band. I've been following (not in the stalker sense) these guys since 2003 when I randomly came across their newly released album while working in the US. I heard one song and it blew me away. And before I get too fanboy-ish I'll get back to concert. Thrice's roots are in post-hardcore but as of late they have been experimenting with their sound by branching into and incorporating prog-rock, bluegrass, and electronic music. Somehow they've been able to avoid betraying those roots and have always come across genuine in their albums. But I was still unsure if they could pull it off live. Those concerns were quickly put to rest as they came out heavy, hard and with massive intensity! At the midway mark they flawlessly toned it down a bit playing songs off of their Air disc from their latest double-disc release. After a few of more-relaxed songs Thrice returned to their heavier fare beginning with a cover of The Beatles 'Helter Skelter'. When it was all said and done Thrice had just blown the crowd away and they fans wanted more with a chant for an encore. I've been to a lot of shows in my young life but never had I heard a crowd ask an opening band for an encore and neither of the other two opening bands got the same response. Thrice definitely didn't disappoint and I can't wait to see them again, hopefully with a longer set.

The third opening band was the alt-rock/punk band Alkaline Trio. To be honest, I had low expectations of this band. I saw them sometime around 2000/01 opening for another band and they weren't very good in any way. They had no presence, little interaction with the crowd, the music was fairly bland and they didn't sound very good. Though I was willing to listen with an open mind since it had been at least seven years since that time. While Alkaline Trio sounded really good, all the other problems still remained. AT have been around since 1996 and have likely been a huge influence on many of other alt-rock/punk bands that have since emerged. What's most disappointing, I would think, is that many of the bands they've likely influenced are doing the same thing but much better. It seems as though AT haven't evolved much and honed their craft better. They were also the unfortunate victims of being placed between the intensity of Thrice and the expectations of Rise Against. At would have been much better off is they had played in the second slot and have Thrice play immediately before Rise Against.

Last but not least the headliner, Rise Against came on to sing their brand of protest music. These guys know how to put on a show! While Thrice has gone on to reinvent themselves and experiment within the post-hardcore genre, Rise Against is finding new ways of expressing their pure post-hardcore roots. Sure there are other bands out there doing similar stuff and RA wear some of their influences on their sleeves but at this point none of them are doing it as well or with the passion that Rise Against is. All of their songs speak to a cause and you can feel the connection they've made with their fans by providing that voice. Having many songs that are anthemaic doesn't hurt either. Rise Against were intense and they left the crowd sweaty, ringing and hoarsed. You couldn't ask for anything more.

All-in-all one of my favourite concerts in recent memory. I was worried that my buddy and I would stick out as the 'old guys' (we're 27 and 28), which happened when we attended the Taste Of Chaos show in Mississauga. However, there were plenty of peers at the show, they just all happened to be in the beer tent while we were having our eardrums destroyed. The Sound Academy is a pretty decent venue - it was my first time there. It's definitely better than Arrowhall. Rise Against et al. are playing again tonight at the same place and I wish I had tickets to see this show as well.

And It Ends... Durham NDP Candidate Steps Down.

It's being reportedthat Andrew McKeever has finally bowed out as an NDP candidate. This was the right decision. Showing a stark contrast between his own and the NDP's views and values, his candidacy seemed strange. However, it was his offensive and threatening comments that proved he was neither mature enought or qualified to be a potential representative of Durham. Stepping down at this point was the right thing to do.

While I struggle with some parts of his resignation statement, enough has been said and done already that criticism is no longer necessary. However, the NDP still have yet to make a statement or denounce his comments. I'm assuming that is coming shortly...

And as this has concluded so will my previous posts that dealt with this situation. Over the next few weeks the past posts will be changed in order to address the issues and themes only. Direct references to McKeever will be removed as there is no longer a point in keeping him included.

How Much More Convincing Does the NDP Need to Realize They Have a Problem in Durham?

Before I get too far let me say that after this I am finished with reporting on the Durham NDP candidate's online idiocy. The first chunks of online comments found, where he used misogynist and threatening comments in an attempt to silence those who opposed his views, already beleaguer the point that he is beyond unfit for public office. All along that has been my only goal. The likely-hood of him being elected was poor in the first place but is now pretty much guaranteed.

Questions still remained about why Layton and the NDP refused to remove him as their representative without ever denouncing his comments. I doubt that the Layton or NDP central party support this candidate's views or values but they gave tacit approval by doing nothing. Furthermore, all involved have been unreachable by the media and public who have questions and concerns. And for that Layton et al. have been getting picked apart on Rabble's message board and other online forums. Unfortunately for the NDP, the online presence of this candidate and his knack for making really detestable comments hasn't gone away.

Yesterday two things happened that may be the breaking point for the NDP in holding onto to this guy. First, the Liberals released screen captures of the candidate's public MySpace page where he makes reference to the movie Schindler's List. There he states,

"I like the part in Schindler's List when the guard starts waxing the prisoners."
Furthermore, on his personal facebook page he lists his political views as "Baathist" and links to Saddam Hussein's entry on Wikipedia.

Shortly afterward Krystalline Kraus, the journalist who made the joint statement with McKeever and publicly accepted his apology for his original derogatory statements seemed to have a change of heart. On Rabble's message board, under her pseudonym Statica, Kraus left this message,

I'm tired of being expected to take bullets for the NDP and stay quiet when I'm screaming inside to speak. I don't like being silenced or manipulated by anyone in my life.

This McKeever -- NDP Durham candidate -- is not my fault and I won't be treated like this is my fault. I had asked for Mr. McKeever to resign and/or be removed by Layton but it was made clear to me that that would just not happen.

I cannot force the NDP to do anything.

Regardless of Mr. Layton's decision regarding Mr. McKeever, I still think he should finally stand up and speak about this issue by condemning Mr. McKeever's comment -- to speak against misogynist comments and violence. Make that statement.

Other candidates got the condemnation and correction of their party's leaders for what they said. Other parties -- whether they kept their candidates or not in the end -- made public statement to show they do not condone offensive, vulgar or insulting comments.

I can't do this with them anymore. I have given them nothing but kindness and generosity in this situation and they have ignored me and betrayed me in return.

I’m a good journalist and a strong, smart person. I can speak for myself.

krystalline kraus

(H/T to Big City Lib)

Kraus' statement indicates that the NDP refused her request for McKeever's resignation. She asked them to remove him and denounce his statements, likely because she was offended by his comments and appauled by his candidacy, but ultimately a joint statement was released by Kraus and McKeever. From the sounds of it, she seems have taken many of the punches aimed in the direction of the NDP while she offered a positive compromise. And in the end, rather than backing Kraus up the NDP seemingly just cut her loose.

Obviously, this raises questions. Already I've raised questions of the NDP's hypocrisy and accountability on this issue and what the message the NDP were trying to send by supporting McKeever through all this. Now there are questions over the NDP's motivation over keeping McKeever around.

As I stated earlier, this guy's chances of winning were poor at best from the get go. When all of his comments were made public his chances got even worse. The odds have also been on the decline with each day as he has yet to appear at any debates or forums and neither he or members of the Durham NDP are responding to calls. He also missed making a one minute taped statement for CFRB(1010 am). So why hold onto this guy if he obviously doesn't represent NDP views or values or represent the party in person?

There is little doubt that Layton and the NDP need to cut their losses now. This situation doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon and is beginning to have a negative effect. To save face in Durham, the NDP have to cut their candidate loose and denounce his comments so they can show that while choosing this guy was a mistake and admit that isn't ready to represent the residents of Durham that at least the NDP still deserve Durham's respect.

(Editted on 10/04/08 @ 10:40am to reflect the clarification provided by Krystalline Kraus in the comments section.)

October 02, 2008

In the End, Only the Public's Opinion Counts

Chantal Hebert and Don Martin and other media types can dismiss Dion and write whatever spin they want but in the end they don't matter. At least not when the public sees it differently...

Tonight's English debate should be interesting.

September 30, 2008

People Running for Public Office Should Think Twice Before Making Threats Online (Still Waiting on the NDP to do the Right Thing)

This morning the following article appeared on Metroland's durhamregion.com website:

Sep 30, 2008 - 08:16 AM

AJAX -- A classroom outburst aimed at a teacher has led to criminal charges against an Ajax teen.

Other students had to be moved to another classroom when the 15-year-old girl launched into a diatribe that included abusive language and threats of physical violence, Durham police said.

Police said the incident occurred last Wednesday when a high school teacher attempted to get students in her class to quiet down and pay attention. A 15-year-old girl took exception and began swearing at the teacher, police said.

The situation escalated when the girl threatened the teacher with physical harm, police said. High school liaison officers arrested the girl and charged her with uttering threats and mischief.

The girl's identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and police withheld the name of the school.

She uttered threats, only once, and she was immediately arrested and charged. The Durham NDP candidate makes several threats to several people and he is allowed to continue running for public office. Is the difference because he did it online? Well that can be addressed as well. One only has to look to refer to a Toronto Star article written last year.

Nov 20, 2007 02:48 PM

Justin Piercy Staff Reporter

A high-school student accused of threatening fellow students and staff online has been arrested.

A witness told police that someone had posted threatening messages about Eastdale Collegiate in Oshawa on the social-networking site Facebook last Friday.

The messages included threats against staff and students and also outlined a 'hit list' of people the author would like to kill.

Investigators received calls from concerned students and parents over the weekend.

The accused was arrested at a home in northeast Oshawa on Sunday night without incident.

The teenager, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with threatening and was held for a bail hearing.

While it is admirable that Krystalline Kraus was able to accept McKeever's apology, unfortunately this issue isn't ultimately about her (or the candidate's stance on war resisters). It is about the words and actions that the candidate placed on an online, public forum. It is about his attempt to hide his words by deleting them before anyone found them. It is about how his apology only came after he was caught. And it is about how he has yet to take responsibility and be accountable. His own words and lack of accountability truly show that he isn't mature enough or responsible enough to be running for public office.

The NDP candidate for Durham's words were vulgar, derogatory and threatening in nature. His words may have been directed at several specific people, however they were placed in a public forum and therefore are offensive and derogatory in general. This also doesn't exclude the fact that there is precedent set for a person being charged for the type of things this candidate said. Precedent has also been set by federal candidates stepping down or being removed for comments that are at least on par with his comments.

This is the truly unfortunate part in regards to Layton and the NDP. At a time when the education system is making strides in its combat against bullying, even as it moves to the internet, and we are asking for civility amongst those that are supposed to be leaders within Canada, it is sad and a backward step that Layton would shrug off his own candidate's actions. In turn, this inaction shows that Layton and the NDP are at least trying to play politicswith the situation. However, by doing nothing they have indirectly sent the message that it is okay for someone who is supposed to be held to a higher civil standard and represent the values of the party and their constituents that it is okay to to threaten and bully others (as long as you apologize two months later and only after you were caught).

That isn't good enough.

If a student can be charged with uttering threats for making those comments in person or online, then at the very least a grown man who has aspirations for public office can step down and admit that at this time he isn't ready. But he hasn't done that, so at the very least he should be have been removed by the party. The NDP have shown they're not willing to do that. Then by my accounts this is a matter for which the police should maybe investigate. If the candidate isn't willing to accept responsibility or the consequences of his words and actions, then maybe he should be forced into that position.

This wasn't a smear job by the Liberals or others who have expressed their disgust here at my blog or on the Rabble message board. This has been about holding someone accountable for their derogatory and threatening statements. And that has yet to happen.

September 26, 2008

NDP Displays Hypocrisy Involving Questionable Candidates

How can the NDP even consider keeping this guy around? His apology was obviously lacking and was more of an (poor) excuse. So what kind of message is the NDP sending? At what point is it okay for someone who wants to enter public life to hold these views and make threats? At a time when there is a issue with cyber-bullying amongst students, what kind of example does this set? It's possible that if these type of comments were made in person he could be charged with uttering threats.

However the NDP seem more bent on playing politics rather than doing the right thing. More specifically they are supporting they're candidate while at the same time they are calling for the heads of Gerry Ritz and Lee Richardson? The misogynistic and threatening comments of their own candidate are at least on par with Richardson's immigration remark and much worse than the extremely poor joke from Ritz. At least Ritz's joke only involved jokingly wishing someone was dead rather than offering to do it himself. This smells of hypocrisy.

There is precedent set in this type of situation. Earlier in the campaign Conservative candidate Chris Reid was forced out from running just because he had some controversial conservative (small-c) views. Furthermore, the Liberals and the Greens both had a candidate quit over offensive remarks. Meanwhile the NDP candidate expressed views that contradict those of the NDP, along with his offensive and derogatory comments, which are obviously in contrast with NDP values. The Durham NDP candidate should be bowing out or he should be getting tossed. Immediately.

Update (09/26/08, 12:39pm):

Only minutes ago Dion announced that he has canned Winnipeg candidate, Lesley Hughes, for expressing controversial comments she made about the 9/11 tragedy. Hughes painted the tragedy with conspiracy theory overtones. Meanwhile, Jack Layton at his press conference earlier today took questions. One question at the end of the conference touched upon several NDP candidates having their pasts coming back to haunt them. Layton responded by saying something to the effect that candidates were let go because the NDP are only interested in providing "quality candidates".

Quality candidates, eh? Does that quality involve misogyny or uttering threats? If Dion is going to boot a person for questioning the official 9/11 story then it shouldn't be much of head-scratch to boot someone for derogatory and threatening remarks.

I'm not alone...

'Heated Online Debate' a Really Bad Excuse for Unacceptable Behaviour

The Durham NDP candidate can disagree with war resisters all he wants. That's his right. Calling them "crybabies" is just a petty and poor way of expressing that opinion. However, my real concern lies with his misogynistic and threatening remarks. I have an even greater problem with his apology - that only came after he was called out - and the excuses that are being made for those remarks.

More specifically, my problem lies with the 'heated online debate' excuse.

There is an obvious problem with using this excuse for extremely offensive and derogatory remarks. When personally involved with a heated debate people may make offensive comments because they're 'in the moment'. Your brain has failed to filter the content somewhere in the nanoseconds it takes to think it and say it.

Being 'in the moment' doesn't apply online (unless you're involved with a live chat and even then that's pushing it). For one thing it's not like you're just blurting out some random comment. You actually have to think it, process it, type it, see it, and make the effort to click on the send button. You're internal filter at some point should have kicked in and threw up red flags. To proceed indicates that you're consciously knowing what you're saying and putting out there for others to read.

My second concern with this excuse is that online debates take time.

Comments and responses in a personal debate happen within seconds and minutes. Online debates generally take time to make responses and comments. With the exception of a few, the Durham NDP candidate's comments generally came hours after the post he was responding to. His comment about making someone "squeal" and called someone a "cunt" came more than nine hours later. His threatening comment came more thirty minutes later. His "fuckwad" response came was more than five hours later.

So how do comments such as constitute a "heated online debate"? And how is this an excuse for misogynistic and threatening remarks?

This is about being accountable for your words and actions, and to the people you want to represent. You cannot use the veil of the internet to say whatever you want and pretend it doesn't matter. If you cannot say those things in person than you should not be saying them online. Putting that type of hate online is just as bad as saying it in person, if not worse. There is a greater degree of mental processing that goes into posting than just blurting something out and the words are not only available but they are visible and on record. That record is now out to the public and all credibility has been lost.

In this case, the candidate hasn't taken responsibility for his words. He only apologized after he was called out and made a (poor) attempt to delete all his offensive comments. Had he been successful at deleting all the evidence I don't doubt that he would denied making the misogynist and threatening comments. He would have never taken ownership of his words. Unfortunately for him he didn't delete them all and therefore taking responsibility in this case means admitting you're not fit for public office at this time and stepping down.

September 25, 2008

Getting to Know Your Candidate the Wrong Way

Several days ago I wrote a post that did two thing:

  1. I questioned the state of the Durham NDP; and
  2. I questioned their candidate, Andrew McKeever, after three NDPers implied concern about him following his nomination.

The post made reference to McKeever's family connections, which was provided by the concerned NDPers. Following that post I had my character attacked by the likes of Harry McAlister (under the name Wireless), the president of the Durham NDP and Andrew Reese-Taylor, under the pseudonym, Wilfrido. Reese-Taylor was also defending Andrew at his facebook group. I reviewed my post and I came to understand that there is a fine line between raising legitimate questions based on hearsay and guilt by association. Rather than be subjected to their continued abuse and having confusion about which side of the line I was on, I altered my original post to this; only questioning the state of health of the Durham NDP.

Shortly afterword someone named Amy Brown posted a comment that contained a series of questions that she had posted at Andrew McKeever's facebook group.

I saw the earlier version of the post, and honestly wish it was still up, as I wished to bring it to the attention of the NDP campaign staff. I have some serious reservations about Mr. McKeever as an NDP candidate. To give you an idea of my concern, here is a posting I put up tonight on Andrew McKeever's NDP Facebook page:

"Andrew, I don't know you personally, but I've followed many of your Facebook postings and comments. So I have some questions for you.

1. Why have you removed postings and groups of yours from all over Facebook? Don't you want people to see all the (unsanitized) comments you have been making over the past year or so?

2. How can you, with any integrity, run for an NDP posting, given the the apparent conflict between your personal views and the NDP's positions?

3. Are your constituents aware that you've been stirring up *$&% on Facebook groups related to the peace movement, from at least Toronto to Newfoundland, over the past year or so?

4. Are your constituents aware that you have often cursed at, derided, defamed and even threatened other people in publicly-viewable forums like Facebook?

5. Are you just planning to run for NDP, then (if you got a seat) cross the floor to a more right-wing party or go independent? (That's my prediction.)

Serious answers, please."

This led me to look into his facebook group where Amy's above comments were also posted. Other people began to respond on the wall including friend's of Andrew. Several of them kept making the point that they didn't support the NDP but would support Andrew because of their friendship. That's fair. As more posts were made more people began to question Andrew and were calling out his comments from other facebook groups. One post in particular asked Andrew to speak his real opinion on "Iraq war resisters".

With several people calling Andrew out, curiousity got the best of me and I went to several groups that supported the war resisters that were in Canada. In one group there were posts left by Andrew McKeever under several topics. I was taken back by the extent of Andrew's offense. Andrew's comments involved calling one woman a "cunt" and eluding to beating and assaulting a person if he ever saw them in person. All because they disagreed with him.

Now Andrew did provide a half-assed and only semi-public apology. This apology tried to justify his comments however and is only posted on his facebook group. But how do you justify being that derogatory and violent? Now I think I understand why there is concern from certain NDPers about Andrew being the candidate in Durham. He doesn't seem to support the NDP stance against Iraq or the NDP position to support the war resisters in Canada.

Andrew's derogatory and violent remarks are definitely against the principles of the NDP. And since some of his positions seem to contradict NDP views and principles, I now think that there is justification to ask whether or not he himself has another agenda for running under the NDP banner. And how he could be representative of Durham's residents whether or not they sympathize with the NDP. I will now ask again, could his real views be more in line with his supportive but non-NDP friends and his apparent family members, Cathy McKeever and Paul McKeever. I'm not saying you can't have a difference of opinion from the party you support - I don't always agree with my party - or that guilt by association is a valid claim, but Andrew's comments made within the last few months warrant a deeper look into his other views and whether or not he is suited to be representative of the NDP or candidate for public office in general.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, it is only fair if Durham residents and supporters of the NDP to know more about Andrew McKeever. So will the real Andrew McKeever please stand up and tell us what you really think?

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)

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