Posts Tagged ‘Ignatieff’

Warming up for a federal election.

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Can we please hurry spring.  We would like some nice weather for an election campaign.  And do not look surprised.  For months, readers of this blog have known there will be an election called before the end of March.  It has to be true. MP Dan McTeague told us so.  If he can get the gas prices right, who would question his election call?

While the news media have tried to promote the NDP’s Jack Layton as a spoiler in the possible election, this strategy seems to have fallen through.  Despite his recent health problems, Jack is his old and spunky self and spoiling to get into the election fray.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is certainly ready to take on all comers and there is ammunition aplenty for him to lambaste Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  In turn, Harper is desperately looking for some high ground above the quagmire his party has created for him.  Between, lying and error prone ministers and telling people that things cost half of what is later revealed, Harper is going to have trouble staying on script for the election as the best manager of our tax money.

A particularly interesting local fight might just be the one here in Babel.  The incumbent will have a hard time keeping his seat.  As a big spender of our money, sending myriad mailers promoting his re-election, the incumbent has accomplished nothing in Ottawa for the voters in his riding.  He missed an ideal opportunity last year to create a permanent national command centre in the riding for emergency operations.  He has been so busy trying to ensure his re-election that he has no understanding of how Ottawa works.

Political people in the riding are suddenly realizing that the guy they considered a sacrificial lamb for the federal Liberals in the election is the likely winner.  They are re-evaluating the support they have shown him.

Luckily the naysayers on the board of the federal Liberal association had already quit the board leaving the candidate with his key supporters in control.  That is going to make things easier for the campaign team.  The Liberal candidate is going to surprise people.

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Why dis the NDP’s poor Jack Layton?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

You try to be nice to a guy and what do you get?  You get the brush-off.  That is what you get.  In writing about New Democrat Leader ‘Hapless’ Jack recently, we have tried to be polite and caring.  After all, if you invite the guy to become a member of the Liberal Party, you hardly want to disrespect him too much.

That is unless he so rudely rejects your caring blandishments.  And he is.  Not only did he say that there would be no getting in bed with the Liberal Party on his watch but he has been seen meeting with Prime Minister Harper.  They can be up to no good.

The relationship between the conservative and socialist voters has always puzzled political apparatchiks and researchers.  You have to be a liberal to understand it.  It is the hatred these hardened voters have for liberals.  We used to see it in the poorer, less educated voters in some areas of Toronto.  They would swing between the Tories and the CCF/NDP.  They never stopped at the liberal way stations.  They had grown up as confirmed liberal haters and believed firmly that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,.  It seems to matter little that the philosophical gulf between the two parties is a mile wide and a mile deep.

In British Columbia and Ontario in the coming federal election, the NDP are going to be bystanders at an all-out assault on getting Harper his majority.  Another minority will be considered a failure for Harper.  The NDP will just be road kill on the way to a majority.

It is obvious that Jack Layton has done the math.  He knows that an election in early May is not going to benefit him or the NDP.  He and his party can only lose.  If he helps the Bloc and the Liberals to savage the upcoming Harper budget, he will end up with fewer seats in the House of Commons than he started with.  That is a no-brainer.  By making what looks like some kind of deal with Harper, he kisses off the Bloc and the Liberals and keeps a happier and larger caucus on Parliament Hill.

This is also a win-win for old Harper.  Whatever Layton claims Harper has done for him, Harper still gets the credit.  The only thing Harper might do to please Layton is to raise the qualifying amount for the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors but that is small change compared to the corporate tax cuts that Harper intends.

What a suspended election really does for Harper is to leave Liberal Leader Ignatieff stewing and unable to get the platforms that would be his in an election campaign.  As you can imagine, this will be something for the talking heads to be blathering about for the rest of the year!

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Canada’s Liberal Party, moving right or left?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

(A version of this monograph was run January 29, 2010.  Not much has changed.)

The Toronto Star ran a series on liberal philosophy that ended with a summation by Tom Kent, the guru of the 1960 Liberal conference in Kingston Ontario. In advocating major social reform such as medicare, the Kingston conference fit the tenor of aggressive social action of the times 50-years ago.

The question is what is the tenor of our times now? First of all, there is the anger and frustrations people feel. Betrayed by the sanctimonious right and then left in the lurch by the left wing of the political spectrum, why should the voters trust them? The growing distrust of politicians has lead to both lethargy and perfidy in voting. Lower turnouts, confusing choices and destructive voting can leave politicians equating the voters with unruly children.

And why should the voters not take it out on the politicians.  Banks betray them. Business lies to them. Churches castigate them. Family ties have become more tenuous, easily broken. Who do you trust? Why do you want to trust them? The truth is, in life, we need trust. We need trust to live. Hedonism is lonely. There is no such thing as the truly self-sufficient person.

People used to believe in their church. They used to accept the doctrines but today it is much safer to be born again and connect directly with your God. Priests and pastors used to be there to help you find God but you found out in recent times that there are priests who fondle little boys and pastors who fondle the organist. Connect directly to God and you cut out the weak go-betweens. Unless you think your priest or pastor is God and that leads to all kinds of problems.

It is the same with business. If you put your trust in a company today, it will put you on tomorrow’s bread line.

Are you going to trust a political party that reads the polls and then tells you what you want to hear? Are you going to tell a pollster anything? Least of all, the truth?

Be honest, would you not rather have friends with benefits than a spouse? You will only change that course when you find someone who can hopefully share a family and, at least some of a life together.

And that explains only a small part of the problem. The political party that wants to connect with voters today has to exhibit leadership, direction, confidence, excitement and look good while carrying out its program. And yet, Barack Obama, who excited voters in the United States, is dropping in the polls in a post-coital period of blues. Sustaining the expectations in today’s society is a monumental and, maybe, an impossible task.

Michael Ignatieff is challenging Liberals to think of the party’s future but he also needs to have the party recapture some of its past. For example, it needs to go back to the Kingston Conference to rethink the social issues that the party saw at that time and why the party chose that direction.

It was a different party. It was a party with strength and drive across Canada. It was a truly national party that was built from the ground up. It was not the centrally directed and controlled party of today. It was a party with strong riding organizations, effective regional and provincial organizations, solid policy development at what was referred to as the grass roots. It was a party that recognized the rank and file member as the very essence of the party’s existence.

Regrettably, that old Liberal party is gone. Not that we want to be maudlin about its passing but we do have to be disappointed with the weak, sham of a party structure that has replaced it. It is the same with all parties. They are all run today from the top down. Stephen Harper revels in the God-like control he has on the Conservatives. Even Jack Layton cannot believe the control he has now of the union organizers who always had such control of the old, more contentious NDP. Michael Ignatieff was out of the country during the transition from a strong Liberal party and is still trying to come to grips with this party that he is supposed to control.

Maybe one of the problems Michael is having is that the party apparatchiks around him are from the right wing of the party. Trying to find some left wing liberals in Ottawa is a tough job. People like John Manley who took over the right-wing role of president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives are among those around John Chrétien and Paul Martin who opened the door to Harper’s neo-conservatives. They have left our country floundering in the hands of an economist who in the last election refused to recognize the crumbling world economic problems.

It will only be a rebuilt Liberal party that will enable Canadians to once again have a confidence in politicians. There is a long road ahead……….

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#49 – Merging the Liberals and NDP: Whose decision is it anyway?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Hold on a minute. Now we have former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien supposedly arguing with current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff over the proposal to merge with the NDP. Why? They, of course, have the right to an opinion but it is not their decision to make. The question of merging of two political parties has to be decided by the parties involved. It is not for present or past leaders to decide.

Stephen Harper’s manoeuvring the takeover of the Conservative Party by the Reform party was so obvious a move that people who understood the situation wondered why it took so long. The two parties had become locked into regional positions and it was an easy process to put them together.

A Liberal-NDP merger is a far more complex situation. The Liberal Party of Canada has always been a centrist party. It was lucky over the years to have some key centre-left thinkers working within the party that gave it moral character. People such as parliamentarians and cabinet ministers Herb Gray and Lloyd Axworthy contributed much of the humanitarian appeal of the party over their years of service.

But they had to do their work amid colleagues from the right of the political spectrum. There was little they could do in the 90’s when Chrétien gave then Finance Minister Paul Martin the green light to gut programs such as unemployment insurance and transfer payments to try to balance the books in Ottawa. It also left little choice for the voters in 2004 between Stephen Harper’s new Conservative Party and Paul Martin’s right of centre Liberals. The Liberal Party might have chosen Stéphane Dion next as leader but the right-of-centre parliamentarians left him to blow in the wind of ugly attacks by Stephen Harper in 2008.

When the Liberal Party next gathered in convention in Vancouver, the parliamentary rump had Michael Ignatieff firmly settled into the leadership role. The party, expecting a fast election, felt there was no other choice and the selection was confirmed.

But what the party really got was a pig in a poke. The party had no idea where Ignatieff sat on the right or left but gave him control of party policy. So far, there has been no policy and no election. Is it any wonder that the news media report that the natives are getting restless?

The one thing that is very clear is that if the Liberals do not carve out a different space in the political spectrum than Mr. Harper, they might as well surrender early. A merger with the NDP can solve that problem.

While people think of the NDP as a socialist party, it is nowhere near as socialist today as it was in its inception. Today, the NDP is more of a socially conscious party and that is what the Liberals desperately need. The NDP no longer needs the unions to hold it up as a party. It no longer needs the socialist rants of past centuries. Today, it needs to become more forward thinking, more environmentally tuned in, more humanitarian in its outlook. It can do that within the Liberal Party.

And the Liberal Party desperately needs that.

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# 12 – Canada’s middle class and the politics of inclusion

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Harper was late again at the Italian G8 meeting. He seems to take longer than any of the other major world rulers to get himself ready for photo ops. Either his logistics people are asleep at the switch or it is just getting harder to comb his hair over as he ages. Or maybe, as an Ottawa writer noted several months ago, Canada’s Prime Minister has discovered middle-class Canadians and thinks tardiness is a middle-class characteristic. He sees this middle-class thing as novel and new (the reporter, not Mr. Harper). Frankly, the reporter seems slow. Canadian politicians have been fighting over the hearts and minds of Canada’s middle class for as long as we have been able to attribute middle-class characteristics to some of Canada’s population.

The reporter actually thinks Mr. Harper should have an advantage with this group because he is himself so middle class. Wrong. Mr. Harper is a right-wing ideologue and the last thing he would ever consider himself to be is middle class. He is likely to consider that description pejorative. He knows himself as a superior person whom others should know to follow.

At the same time, the reporter says that certain pollsters and Mr. Harper are attempting to position Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as “a stuffy intellectual.” Wrong again. While Ignatieff is unquestionably intellectual, he also has a wonderfully wry sense of humour, a self-deprecating style and a very real concern for people that Mr. Harper can never match.

It really is quite funny when the reporter tells readers that Mr. Harper shows that he is really middle-class by having two young children. The news media show clips of him taking his son to play hockey. He is as stiff with his children as he is in the boardroom. He should have taken a lesson from the upper-class Pierre Trudeau, who never allowed his sons to be part of political campaigning, other than the requisite picture for the annual Christmas card.

The reporter builds all this silliness on Barack Obama’s win in the United States last November. That win was achieved, the reporter tells us, by Obama using a positive and inclusive message. The reporter was not up on American history nor aware of the power of new media. It was a lesson Obama learned from the last of the truly patrician American presidents: Franklin Roosevelt. FDR built his politics of inclusion on a new medium of communications of his era: radio. Obama built his inclusion with the new media of this era: the Internet,

When you refer to the politics of inclusion, you are not really talking about the middle class. The middle class of society is hardly a voting block. The politics of inclusion crosses the economic and intellectual lines in society and invites broad participation. Roosevelt built a path out of the Great Depression for Americans with the “New Deal.” Barack Obama opened doors to blacks, Hispanics and white Americans frustrated with the George W. Bush regime with the simple words: “Yes we can.”

More important than the actual words was the positive nature of the message. In an era of vicious, negative attack advertising in politics, Obama reversed the trend. He left the sneering insults to the late night talk shows and the news media and took the high road. He was respectful but firm with his Republican opponent and he kept looking better and better throughout the American election.

Conversely, the campaign in Canada in October was awash in a constant turmoil with scurrilous attacks and mixed messages that put the Canadian voter on a seesaw. The refusal of Stephen Harper to admit there were problems with the economy was to put his campaign in direct conflict with reality. He won a narrow victory in the end by staying with his message and emphasizing the weaknesses of Liberal Stéphane Dion.

But, with the self destructive ideological approach of Stephen Harper, nobody should give this government much time before Michael Ignatieff brings it down. Ignatieff has already laid the groundwork in Ottawa of ensuring that his caucus is not the cause of any disrespect and nastiness in the House of Commons. He is determined that Harper is not going to pull him down into the gutter politics that destroyed his predecessor Stéphane Dion. The difference between the two liberals is that while they are both professors and intellectuals, Ignatieff is also very much a politician.

Canadians are going to start to remember a slogan that was popular after the Great Depression of the 1930s. The slogan is simply “Liberal times are good times.”

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