Archive for April, 2010


Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Barrack Obama thinks his Wall Street buddies are all good guys,

With new revelations about Goldman Sachs, is that really wise?


#31 – Breaking the rules in a parliament without principles.

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Helena Guergis, the former tory, former cabinet minister and soon former Member of Parliament, broke the cardinal rule of Canadian politics: Thou shalt not get caught. That might sound a bit arcane but it appears to be the only rule that matters in a parliament without principles.

It was about 45 years ago that the ink-stained fingers of Toronto Star cartoonist Duncan Macpherson produced the classic cartoon comment on political skulduggery: it was a charming rendition of then Prime Minister Mike Pearson playing the piano in a saloon while a keystone-cops gaggle of mounties raided the place. The caption was something about Mr. Pearson just being the piano player and not knowing what was going on upstairs. The cartoon was stimulated by a German immigrant who might or might not have been bedding certain cabinet members and quasi diplomats. It led to Canadian political parties choosing piano players as leaders ever since.

The poorest piano player was the Liberal’s Paul Martin. How he let himself get tarred by the fallout from Jean Chrétien’s sponsorship scandal never did make sense. Maybe he realized that he would be in worse trouble if he dumped on his predecessor. The one thing you do not do in today’s politics is try to stay above the mud-slinging and let the problem fester.

Mind you, it is not clear yet whether Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff can even play the piano. You could never sell tickets to a classical piano recital by Conservative Stephen Harper but he does do a reasonable honky-tonk. You expect that the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe can fake it at the keyboard, like he does everything else. The NDP’s Jack Layton would demur as his Toronto Musician’s union card has probably lapsed.

Obviously the parties should have a requirement of a certain level of skill with the piano. If it can be a standard requirement for kindergarten teachers, why not make it a requirement for political leaders. Mind you, on that basis, Mitchell Sharp would have defeated Pierre Trudeau for the leadership of the Liberals in 1968. Sharp was by far the better piano player.

But, we digress. We were talking about the lack of principles in Canadian politics. After an impassioned speech to a group of political people the other evening about this lack of principles, I realized that if I was going to put my money were my mouth is about this issue, I am going to have to be more political and build my case. If you are going to build a case for reform, you also have to have a constituency. That also needs to be built. Which means: I need to make nice with people.

First of all I need to make nice with more citizens of Babel. That means simply: stop making fun of Babel. That is doable, with the proviso that I can still make fun of the mayor. After all, he is really funny.

It means I have to become a joiner. The rule is, you can never change things from outside. That means I need to join the Ontario Liberal Party and stop dissing Dalton McGinty. What I can do is pretend that old friends such as Gerry Phillips and Jimmy Bradley, who are still in the Ontario cabinet, are really running the Ontario government and I can support them because they are capable politicians with a deep respect for Ontario voters.

The new me and Sancho can then gird for battle with the windmills and windbags of politics to reform the degrading system of elitist governance we have been enduring in Canada since Confederation.

More to come in The Democracy Papers: Part II.

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Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Michael Ignatieff, don’t worry about the vote,

Now’s the time to get Harper, go for his throat.



Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The municipal races are too long and lessons are not learned,

I think Smitherman jumped too fast, he’s likely to be burned.



Friday, April 16th, 2010

There are MPs who want to restrict a woman’s right,

We shouldn’t let them try it without a hell of a fight.


#30 -10 – Spring has come to Babel.

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The ice of winter on the bay a distant memory, the brown grass of winter surging with the chlorophyll of renewal, the trees knobby with buds ready to burst, it might just be spring in Babel. It’s a rich time of year. It is a harbinger of summer with the first boats assaying the waves of the bay. One day soon, at some magic time for the fishermen amongst us, they will also be out there, hunkered over against the chill of spring.

Mind you, I have absolutely no wish to rhapsodize about fishing. It is not a sport—unless you consider those who ward off pneumonia to be the winners. It is not like golf, where at least you get a good walk in—while stopping occasionally to hit a poor miserable little ball that never did anything to you. The Blue Jays have returned to the concrete convertible with their usual false promises of renewed glory. I prefer beach volleyball—the one where smooth muscled young ladies in skimpy bikinis strut their stuff.

Spring in Canada is a time of renewal. It is the promise of verdant crops and fecund cows dropping their calves. It is a time of political renewal also. In an effort to create order, the Ontario government has declared this an election year for municipalities. The long and tortuous battle for the Stanley Cup has commenced. Road construction season is confounding drivers anew. Life goes on.

The Babel Liberals have a candidate ready to joust with the pathetic MP Brown. The Liberal candidate is smart, knows where he wants to go and is a paraplegic. It will be a fair fight.

In an act of bravado, the snow tires came off the family car the other day. The sun continues to shine. Welcome spring. Go out and smell the spring flowers.

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Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

A novel suggestion for Babel, I’d like to mention,

Why not use the old train station for a GO station.


#29-10 – Opening the doors of Ottawa.

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

As one who spent many years opening doors in Ottawa, you look with distain on those who so brashly try to sell themselves as door openers because they know this or that politician. It is not that over the years, I did not do many millions of dollars of business in Ottawa. It is not that I did not have access to the top levels of government and civil service. The facts were that the real work had usually been completed much lower on the department food chain before people at top levels became involved with a project.

Anyone who thinks they can sell with just political clout is a fool. As a very young political apparatchik, I once got a quite severe dressing down from a deputy minister. He was angry. I had proposed a rather radical approach to a problem faced by his department directly to his minister. The deputy minister considered my solution to be nothing short of a declaration of war by the minister against the department. It went against everything in which the Deputy believed. I had committed heresy. What further infuriated the deputy was that the minister was quite amused by my solution and had rubbed the deputy’s nose in it. “Here’s how it works, young man,” the deputy told me: “you bring the ideas such as that to the department first. We are the people who have to make it work. In the process, we will also look after your minister.”

He was right. Nothing replaces the time-consuming, painstaking steps needed to bring the department on side with a new endeavour. And no amount of persuasion can get a smart politician to argue with his department people if they oppose your plan. During the Trudeau era in Ottawa I put together millions dollars worth of projects for business in Ottawa. What proved my case was that little changed and the business kept flowing when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney took over.

It was during the Brian Mulroney government’s tenure that I accepted some consulting contracts with government departments. The most fascinating assignments were in selling the political masters on objectives brought forward by the departments. It led to some very unusual events. I will never forget the time I was enjoying dinner with someone in a back corner of one of Ottawa’s more obscure but quite fine restaurants. Inadvertently, the restaurant seated another party next to us before we were finished. The new party included the then president of the Liberal Party, a Liberal Senator of long acquaintance and other people from the party. I had no choice but, when leaving, to stop by the table to say ‘hello.’ It did not seem necessary to introduce the person I was with but it must have been a hot topic for a few days, with people asking what the heck I would be doing, having dinner with Prime Minister Mulroney’s chief of staff.

Political Ottawa is a very small town.

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Monday, April 12th, 2010

Mr. Harper is down in Washington hobnobbing with his betters,

He is always late for photo ops, having his hair in place matters.



Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The Polish Diaspora, is today racked in sadness and sorrow,

For leaders and heroes are not those a country can borrow.