Monday, January 30, 2006

So Much For A' That

Frank, we hardly knew ye.

Colour me slightly disheartened about the news from McKenna today. Coyne is right in referring to him as a "good man" and you can be always be sure of the genuineness of his announcement. The (seemingly) sudden change of heart may raise an eyebrow or two, but you can bet that today's choice is Frank's final word this time around. The Maritimes might be the biggest loser, trading in a McKenna candidacy for those of lesser rivals, Tobin and/or Brison. It should make any organizing in the East that much more interesting, however, and that is all to the good.

CalgaryGrit outlines some further reasons why the move is a positive one for the Liberal party as a whole, particularly #1 and 4. Dion and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Kennedy remain the two most intriguing potential suitors for my money. Ignatieff intrigues as well - I just wonder if his lack of experience can be trusted with such a difficult and inherently "political" job. This time, the party will need someone in the Pearson mold, as opposed to a philosopher king. And unique connections to the West or Quebec could prove extraordinarily advantageous as it unfolds.

Oh, can't you just hear the incessant ring of the telephone in Liberal backrooms around the country? I wonder when the first announcements will begin... It would be nice to see someone get the ball rolling and announce they WILL seek the nomination.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Per Ardua Ad Astra

"Risk. Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's
why we're aboard her."

- Captain Kirk, "Return to Tomorrow"

To the heroes - past, present, and future - whose daily "purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until they die." We remember and honour your sacrifices. And continue to seek those wider horizons in your names.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Further Leadership Miscellany

Won’t be able to make the blogstravaganza in TO tonight, but did enjoy sipping a few Olands at Domus last night with the Tiger and the Barrelman in a gathering of Eastern Seaboard armchair analysts. In the course of rambling conversation, talk passed naturally to the numerous potential candidates jockeying for Martin’s position. Here are a few remembered observations:

(1) Will Ignatieff even run? Should he bother? The excessive speculation that we will aside, the Professor and his circle of advisors have shown a remarkable political naivete in the freshman campaign for office. In this time of mini-crisis, how can the party really trust such a novice.

The glowing press treatment following his address to the Liberal convention has long since worn off. He is known throughout the country more for his missteps than his insight. Most notably, given his lack of experience in (a) the House of Commons, (b) the Liberal party, (c) Canada in general, the Tiger noted that Iggy would have to be "extraordinarily arrogant" to hold any serious pretentions to lead the government-in-waiting. That’s about right. Although the Barrelman piped in, a bit sarcastically, that this could explain why he will in fact run. Heh.

(2) Putting aside the inevitability of a Belinda campaign (nice when money is never a constraint), who in the Liberal party in their right mind could actually support her for leader? How many days has she been a member of the party? Wasn’t it the “evil” Mike Harris, fodder for innumerable Liberal campaign attacks, who supported her rise to the head of the Conservative party? Wasn't it not so long ago that she took credit for unifying the Alliance and the PCs.

I, for one, found many in the Liberal party embraced Belinda’s cynical cabinet hop much too quickly, the true embodiment of desperation tactics trumping principles. Can she really be considered a serious candidate for this job among loyalists to the Liberal cause? I doubt McKenna should be overly worried. Of the possible female challengers, Jane Stewart, though mainly remembered for troubles at HRDC, could prove a far more credible alternative.

(3) The West will need in on this race. Since Emerson ruled himself out as “too old”, who does that leave? I am no huge fan of Ujjal, but he might appeal to a number of natural constituencies. Shame about his underwhelming turn at the Health Ministry.

(4) Happy to see the initial groundswell of support for Dion. It remains to be seen if he is the right man for the actual position, but the party only stands to benefit from a broader, national airing of his thoughtfully considered positions. McKenna-Dion v. Harper-Cannon (for example) would make for a truly classic electoral race.

(5) Finally, I really hope Joe Volpe runs, if only for the comic relief potential.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cherniak on Dion

A two-line dismissal of any leadership run by him this time out:
He should not, however, lead the Liberal Party at this time. We need a leader who is emotive.
Jason elaborates in a comment to his original post:
By "emotive" I do not necessarily mean charismatic. I mean a person who makes people feel like he/she cares what they have to say. Martin used to have the ability and it is why he used to be popular. Once he lost it, he didn't have anything on Harper other than experience. Essentially, we need a person who will listen to problems, think about them and then answer. Dion is too certain that he is right - it is the Chretien style and I do not think it is what we need at this point in time.
The "Chretien-style". There you have one element of the internal party opposition to Dion exposed early, that he is too much of Chretien. [put aside that Martin was the one who picked Lapierre over him, of course. Lapierre was such a winning replacement. -ed.] Any Dion candidacy is certain to face heavy opposition from the Martin wing, right from the outset.

My real issue with his "analysis", however, is that it is far too simplified as to be meaningless. Is Dion certain he is right on issues of, say, taxation? healthcare? Canada-U.S. relations? If so, I would be interested in the comprehensive airing of his opinions on the policy nuances. As Minister of the Environment, he just chaired a UN conference on Kyoto to great acclaim, and it seems to me that if you are "too certain you are right", it is difficult to do that effectively. Even on federalism, as Cosh notes today, Dion is still in the process of formulating his approach going forward given the new climate.

But, more than too many who aspire to the leadership of the Liberals, at least he exhibits signs of a willingness to think. Cherniak may want someone who "listens, thinks, and answers". Fair enough. Personally, I am more swayed by the candidates I feel may have the right answers and comes to the right decisions in the end, as opposed to the pandering listeners lacking in substance.

Perhaps the real complaint here is that Dion will be too quick to draw principled lines in the sand: "This is my position. If you disagree? Fine, you disagree." Cherniak seems to prefer the Martin approach of openness on all things to all comers.

Well, we saw how well that worked out. Let the Liberal leadership race be a race of ideas as much as of personalities, an argument over the directions the country might take. That party will be far better for it.

Happy # 247, Mr. Burns!

Here we have arrived again at that grandest of days, the one set aside for a worldwide celebration of the poetry and verse of Rabbie Burns.

Last year was a madly chaotic one in Oxford town. Though this time out I will likely not find myself at the end of a bottle of Famous Grouse and the center of Rangers v. Celtic debates, tonight's festivities will be my first proper Burns dinner at Stayner's Wharf. Quite looking forward to the promised "Parade of the Haggis, Address to the Haggis, Toast to the Haggis, pipers and players".

Plenty of suitable poetry to tickle your wit and fancy over in the archives at Robert Burns Country. If you require a wee bit o' guidance - be sure to read some of the MacDuff favorites, including "No Churchman Am I", "Tam O'Shanter", "Here's A Health To Them That's Awa", and "She Says She Loes Me Best Of A' ".

But one of the true joys of Burns' Day is perusing aimlessly through the collected works for a new verse to mark the occasion and send along to friends, near and away. The appropriate choice for this year is a simple one, for all our country's newly elected Members of Parliament from coast to coast:
From The Author's Earnest Cry And Prayer (To the Right Honourable and
Honourable Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons - 1786):

In gath'rin votes you were na slack;
Now stand as tightly by your tack:
Ne'er claw your lug, an' fidge your back,
An' hum an' haw;
But raise your arm, an' tell your crack
Before them a'.

Do raise a glass of auld Scotland's finest to the old master. Oh Caledonia, let me tell you that I love you, and that I think about you all the time.

Dion Shows his Interest

Via Wells' latest, news in Le Devoir that Stephane Dion has begun considering a run for the leadership. Coyne also hopes Dion throws his hat into the ring, thus far issuing only a non-endorsement of Tobin.

Excellent start. More to follow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let the Speculation Begin

And why not? The armchair pundits never rest - and an eagerly awaited contest is set to begin, one in which I will probably have a horse by the time the dust settles and the BBQ circuit is underway. So a quick parsing of the scene and cast of players, as Martin phones in the resignation:

Early on, former NB Premier and current Ambassador to the US, Frank McKenna, remains the frontrunner. Will Harper recall him? Our new PM is nothing if not a savvy tactician with an eye for the long view, so don't discount the possibility of his remaining on the scene. Harper could show an impressive non-partisanship by keeping that appointment in place, as well as backing Milliken for Speaker, even as both moves offer him significant advantages.

That aside, the biggest item actually working against McKenna right now is that he seems already to have garnered the tacit support of Martin's inner circle, and so their considerable organizational clout. In seeking renewal, that could prove to be the kiss of death, whether in winning the support of fellow Liberals or (should he win the leadership) in winning the support of a country sceptical of this particular cabal.

I am all for the NB Premier of our youth, Cooper. (Incidentally, welcome back from the cold, my friend. Glad to hear the champagne at Canada House tasted so sweet). I do worry that if people look to him as Martin's anointed successor (rightfully or not), his star might burn less bright. At least it would in the eyes of this scribbler.

BUT... then I examine the many remaining pretenders - Manley's too ancient regime, Tobin's more ambitious for the job than even Martin was, Brison's too much the Conservative, Ignatieff's too obviously inexperienced this time around, Volpe's simply an idiot, Belinda's Belinda, Dryden's too boring, Copps' too polarizing and a step backward, Cauchon's too unknown outside Quebec, etc, etc... At first blush, the race reminds me eerily of the 2004 Democratic primaries: many candidates with their own redeemable characteristics, but also with noteworthy flaws. In such environments do unheralded underdogs find their openings.

And so we arrive to my conclusion: that there is much to be said for a Stephane Dion candidacy. This is a time where one perceived as most reluctant to take a shot at the leadership could prove one of the most appealing. Widely respected outside the Liberal party [note today's musing by Cosh, for example], now staggeringly adept on the environment file after hosting the recent conference, a bilingual Quebecker who Canada would be fortunate to have at or near the helm when (if?) the separatists take their parting shot. With a Harper Mulroney-esque approach and Dion channeling Trudeau, the BQ could quickly get squeezed out. Plus he also carries a reputation as absolutely incorruptible, and with none of the ties to political elites or the biggest of business (not to mention the Bush family) that remains my one frank concern about our man Frank.

Dion's would be the kind of candidacy that gets noticed outside the Liberal party, as evidence of a ship willing to repair itself. Even if not ultimately successful, his would be a voice well worth hearing in the unfolding debate to come.

So - who might start this worthy grassroots draft movement?

UPDATE - an anonymous commentator on Cherniak's bizzarely triumphal post-election post floats the name of Gerard Kennedy, currently Ontario Education Minister. VERY interesting - and a classic example of another intensely credible dark horse that could end up having a legitimate shot given these circumstances.

To be clear, the above speculation on Dion and McKenna notwithstanding, we are a LONG way from the actual endorsement(s) of anyone at this point. It will be fascinating to see this all unfold.


Woke up early this morning. Early. Crashed the High Commission reception in Trafalgar Square. Saw the results pour in. My riding, which has voted Liberal in every federal election since 1962, went Tory. By a whopping 210 votes. The Bloc polled under 50%, Buzz Hargrove's pleading to vote Duceppe over Harper notwithstanding. Proceeded to grab a glass of orange juice laced with champagne.(Actually, it was more like champagne laced with orange juice. Just without the orange juice.) Yes, it was a good morning.

And, to steal from the Gipper -- while maintaining a safe ideological distance from the United States, lest I draw the wrath of a Liberal attack ad -- it's morning in Canada. The voters have brought the Conservatives out of the wilderness, and have given Harper a chance to show what he can do. That's all, I concede, just a chance. And fair enough. I have a feeling the Tories will make good on the broad-based national support they received, but as Paul Martin seems to be just now learning as the door is hitting his ass on the way out, empty promises don't amount to much. And it's hardly time for gloating, as if a minority government would ever be reason to gloat. Let's see about cutting that GST, about giving out beer-swilling and popcorn-munching parents more choice over child care, and about bringing some accountability and trust back to government.

Yes, let's see it. And may it be increasingly possible for me to have more than one party competing for my vote: Frank McKenna, where are you hanging your hat these days?

Ten Thoughts on the Vote

Assuming the numbers hold around 125 CPC, 102 Lib, 51 BQ, 29 NDP...

(1) How many of these 102 Liberals will vote against Same-Sex Marriage? How many of those narrowly defeated "progressive" NDP members?

(2) I thought Martin's magic number might be 100 tonight - Now his resignation is not a foregone conclusion. He may fancy one more rematch, and what advisor on the inside would counsel him not to stick around, since they're not likely to see the inside of the PMO any time soon. I doubt he wants to go out as a loser - so he might still be here come next January. Did I just hear "There will be another chance... There will be another time."

...Or not, as we get to this point in the speech. Well, good on him. Looks like I owe Stransky a Scotch. He certainly earns some respect back for that graceful exit - although now the tributes will get a bit much. That could not have been easy.

(3) Once again the NDP seem to come up agonizingly short of forming an obvious balance of power. Heart-breaker. How bad does Chuck Strahl want to be speaker, because if Harper wanted he could always keep the man born to do the job, Peter Miliken, at the helm.

(4) Looking forward to getting to know Andre Arthur. What is it about recent minority Parliaments that are so damn dependent on the critical independent?

(5) Incumbency rules out East. We have much to do though - the CPC ran one female candidate of 32, the Liberals ran two. Alexa is the only woman elected. That needs some fixing.

(6) On that note, the Liberals don't need much help in the Maritimes. Does that hurt the chances of McKenna, Tobin, et Brison? And open the door for a leader from the West, or Quebec?

(7) So happy to see Belinda win so she can sit in those familiar opposition benches. In seriousness, a mighty congratulations to her campaign manager. Quite the performance buddy. Also great to see Ignatieff elected - politics could use more intelligent, over qualified people.

(8) Who says bloggers (and their non-endorsements) had no impact? Au revoir, Ms. Bulte.

(9) Blackburn wins Jonquiere-Alma for Canada, in what must be one of the best electoral wins in our political history. So many stories of this nature.

(10) Refreshing to see a Prime Minister from Calgary - in fact, refreshing to see a whole host of new blood. Hard to believe it was back in April that I wrote this. It holds up pretty well, come to think of it. Our trust is now with you Harper. We'll be watching closely.

Oh finally, Canadian federal politics is exciting and unpredictable again. The opportunity to move forward has been accepted by our collective wisdom. Well done, Canadian voters, you have delivered a superb result. Would have been nice for the NDP to break that 30-seat barrier. But we'll take it.

More to follow.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


In the latest of mindless, addictive internet games comes "Escapa!". Thus far, in a flurry of well-timed moves, my personal high score is 20.687 seconds.

Note that any symbolism gleaned from the fact that the goal is to temporarily save the small Liberal square from the Blue attackers is purely coincidental...


Two things to keep in mind tonight:

(1) The grand "sea change" in seats that the polls indicate is coming represents a marginal shift in support. In other words, CPC gains are directly attributable to a swing of 6-7% of eligible voters. If you think Harper is going to treat this as a sweeping mandate beyond the platform campaigned upon, think again. If the NDP again fail to put parliamentary and electoral reform at the center of a minority agenda, they will be wasting another grand opportunity.

(2) There will be much to criticize Harper for in the coming months from Ahab's perspective. Plenty of disgruntled Liberals will be quick to attach blame to leftist voters who abandoned that party for other options with their eyes open. That won't wash. Martin and his tired team would be subject to plenty of criticism themselves if they emerge victorious (and they still might). On balance, many have concluded a Tory minority is better for the country in the long view. But it doesn't prevent us from calling it out as we see fit.

That is all. Happy voting. Big Day tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why Progressives Shouldn't Vote Liberal

Broadbent goes out on a high note. His last statement as MP summarizes concisely why the Liberals should be turfed. Very well said. The moneyist of many money quotes is in the closing:
Mr. Martin’s team is running a campaign based on intellectual dishonesty. Cynical manipulation. And recklessly using significant issues for the sole purpose of continuing Liberal entitlement – which we know is used to benefit Liberal insiders, not working people.

For those reasons, I urge people to look at the option presented by Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party. And this once, vote for the kind of change you want. Vote NDP, for the kind that puts working people first.
In two paragraphs, he puts the dagger to the folly of the Think Twice camp. Harper would be smart to appoint Broadbent to the head of a Parliamentary/Electoral Reform Commission, if elected. Hopefully we haven't seen the last of Honest Ed.

UPDATE: Hebert asks: "Is the Canadian left really so weak that it needs to hide in the tattered skirts of a beleaguered Liberal party at the first hint of a right-wing wind?" And concludes: "When the Canadian left does its post-election soul-searching, it should ponder whether some of its leading voices allowed their fears to make them lose sight of an unprecedented opportunity to advance their values." She is exactly right.

Halifax as a Bellweather (of a sort)

Just sent an email to Cosh in response to his bleg for opinions of the bellweather ridings, and figured I might as well post the gist of the contents:

Here's a case for Halifax as a bellweather, the riding where I'll be voting NDP on Monday. Although Dartmouth-Cole Harbour will likely be closer and more open for change if a switch is gonna come.

Alexa's support has dropped since she stepped down as leader, and her margin of victory was the smallest of ANY Maritime riding last time around, if you can believe it. I am almost sure she will win this time, it is the numbers that will be interesting. In 2004, a popular local city council member stood for the Liberals and made a nice run. She also picked up a lot of support due to an ineffectual and ratherAlliance-ish candidate. This time, Martin MacKinnon is viewed by many as another Martin Yes-man. The flyer received in the mailbox this morning was a simple generic Liberal one that didn't mention his name. The Conservative candidate is a young, personable lawyer I met at one of the NewYear's levees, poised to do quite well. I would even consider voting for him if not for his (personal) rather dogmatic views on the social issues.

Alexa's done a lot for the left in Nova Scotia and I don't mind supporting her as my MP. So why watch Halifax? The drop in support for the Liberal candidate compared to 2004 will be revealing as a reflection of support for Martin. It should prove an early sign of how reasonable, progressive voters in larger cities prone to scepticism will vote. Will they drift away from the NDP to the Liberal alternative? Will provincially Progressive Conservatives vote CPC?

[The results of 2004 are here. In short, Alexa 41.5%, Liberal 39.1%, Conservative 14.7%.]

If the Conservative guy climbs into the 22% + range, I'd venture the Martinis in for a long night.

Dartmouth is the opposite, a very popular personable candidate in Mike Savage will likely win re-election against perennial campaign loser Mancini for the NDP. People will be pointing to this as an earlier indication of the NDP's failure to retake Liberal seats, but they will be wrong. Savage's win will be to his credit alone. As Wendy Lill's successive victories were tributes to her performance. There aren't a lot of ridings in the country where I would even consider voting Liberal this time 'round, but Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is one of them.

Further Evidence We Need to Grow Up

Via Coyne, news of MacKay's supposed "sexist insult". Please.

Honestly. I admit that one of the reasons I have become increasingly pulling for a Conservative government is to shut up the fearmongers on the left who have announced that the election of Harper is a doomsday equivalent. The abortion concerns are particularly galling, for reasons noted already by Ben. Just as Martin and Chretien keep their Wappels in check, so will the sane leaders at the top of the CPC. And since too many Liberals don't believe it, I guess we will just have to kick them out of office to prove them wrong.

But back to MacKay. I lived in England last year and watched an electoral contest first hand. The level of debate, the cut and thrust, the rhetorical turns of phrase, in short - the maturity of the process. You actually believed that the people of the country were being asked to elect members among themselves to handle the levers of government. A complaint about such a quick comment would not only go unreported, no one would even think twice of it.

In Canada, by contrast, we get an obssession with the meaningless minutiae. The poll-obssessed media cannot even cover the polls with a degree of responsibility and intelligence. We need a sense of balance and reason about what is important. We are electing the folks who will run the damn government. Let's get around to talking about what matters.

On a wholly unrelated other note - I need a strategy for eating supper on Fridays.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Email of the Day

...er, mine. Sent to Andrew Sullivan this morning.

Recent posts of his that prompted the letter here and here.

Quote of the (Fri)day

From "The Sun King", a Gatsby-esq novel by WaPo columnsit David Ignatius:
"I leafed a few more pages to the Personals. Occasionally I scanned these for the colorful ways people chose to describe themselves. "Affectionate, voluptuous, likes travel, fit." They never said "lonely". On this evening, my eye wandered to a category I'd never noticed, called "I Saw You." They were little notes, posted by people after chance encounters with someone who had caught their eye and made them think later, when they were alone, maybe that was the one. "Starbucks, Dupont Circle, 10/28, You: brunette, red coat. Me: sandy hair, leather jacket. You smiled." "National Gallery, 10/30, 1 p.m. by the Rembrandt painting. You said hi. I was too shy." "St. Mark's Church, 10/25, you sat next to me. Are you single?"

They were the saddest things I had ever read, those notes. Each expressed in a few lines the pain of realizing, too late, that love might have been right next to you, and you had let it slip away. I tried to imagine the failures of nerve that lay behind each of the plaintive messages - the embarrassment that had come over someone's face, the sentence that wasn't finished, the pounding heart. They were afraid to speak. He'll think I sound stupid... She'll think I'm too forward. And then the moment had passed, the person was gone - and instantly, they began to regret it, and wanted it back. So they bought these advertisements, in the hope they could rewind the tape and try again."
No such failures of nerve in sight here, as the spinning orbs have returned us once again to that most hallowed of weekly moments, the Rum-and-Coke Friday afternoon. Wish me luck in the Stayner's draw. But know that if I win, regardless of the prize, I tell you right now I am throwing it all away (again) for the craic of the mystery box.

Liberal Joementum

Remember the glory days of Joementum? When a 5th place finish in the New Hampshire primary was described by Connecticut's Senator as a "tie for third" and signs of his impending rise. Other than some spectacular punning, this so-called joementum was merely a figment of the imagination.

Fast forward to Canada's campaign, 2006. Based on the inevitable fluctuation in polls, Liberals desperate for any good news have latched onto the recent "dips" in Conservative support numbers as evidence of a impending comeback. While anything can still happen, four thoughts:

(1) You have to love the Globe and Mail headline today. That might be exhibit one in any political science course on how the media can almost artificially construct a narrative.

(2) Polls at this stage are highly unreliable and unstable. Recall last election campaign, as Let it Bleed said on December 13th:
Go down to the months and weeks preceding the June 2004 election. The polls, in retrospect, are laughable: on May 14, the Liberals are headed for a "solid majority"; fifteen days later, suddenly we're looking at a minority government; then the polls are "neck and neck" and "on the razor's edge"; then, miraculously, Stephen Harper was "poised to be PM with a strong minority"; seven days later, it's "too close to call".

Final result? The Liberals won by 7.1 points. Seven points! From "too close to call" to a seven point spread? Are you kidding me? If your kitchen contractor miscut the counter-top by 7%, you'd throw his ass out the door and hit him with the too-short plank of granite. The aptly named "2004 Federal Election Polling Post Mortem" seems to argue that it was all "timing". Sure. That or polling is, as described above, inherently flawed.

So everyone, on all sides, relax when you see poll results reported. They're worth some giggles, but not much more..
(3) Isn't this all still happening in the margin of error anyway? What's the big deal?

(4) Do any Liberals ever care to reflect on how sad it is that they continue to cling to any chance at government by their fingernails, only by wild allegations against their "scary" opponents.

On that note, as for the Liberal glee at all the "secret" CPC ties to American Conservatives, enough. Enough with the conspiracy theories that as soon as the votes are in, Harper will turn over the reigns of Government to the crazies. He has every incentive to put his most moderate feet forward.

After 12 years of the Liberals, he has earned the chance. Then he can prove that he isn't going to bring back abortion or otherwise eat children, and the desperate attacks can cease being the focus of our election campaigns. Or so it is hoped.

Mr. Moore's Pitch

This might be a tad convincing, if only:

(1) Mr. Moore kindly explained the "ways at the polls to have your voices heard other than throwing the baby out with the bath-water."

(2) The election of the Conservatives actually did constitute a "conquest" of G.W.B. Last time I checked, Harper was quick to point out areas of disagreement with the Bush administration. Just a sign of simplistic grandstanding and demeaning hyperbole.

(3) Harper wasn't far more moderate than anyone ever in the running to be Governor of Utah.

Thanks for coming out though. Just don't panic too much when you see the returns, Mike. Canada will be just fine. As for your government...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vive le Quebec... Conservateur??

Is there any doubt that the returns out of Quebec on Monday night won't be absolutely fascinating? Consider this story out of Saguenay - the Liberal candidate is convinced that the Tory candidate will win the riding, knocking off the BQ incumbent.

If that should happen, it would have to be considered one of the biggest turnaround upsets in Canadian electoral history. In 2004, the Conservative candidate in Jonquiere-Alma finished 4th with 2,217 votes of 46,682 cast. That's a woeful 4.83%. The BQ had 25,193 (54.93%) the Liberal 13,355 (29.11%), and an Independent even edged out the CPC for the bronze with 2,737 (5.96%).

Its momentum versus traditional organization on the ground. Harper may yet have a choice among Quebec ministers in any potential cabinet. Did anyone out there see this tide 'a-coming?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Election Descends into Farce

farce (färs) n.

1. (a) A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.
(b) The branch of literature constituting such works.
(c) The broad or spirited humor characteristic of such works.
2. A ludicrous, empty show; a mockery: The fixed election was a farce.
3. A seasoned stuffing, as for roasted turkey.
4. Buzz stumping for Belinda and the Bloc. Think Twice indeed.

Vote Selector Response

Thanks Liam, I am a bit bored after a hectic day thus far. Thus the curiosity at the Vote Selector's opinion as to my vote next Monday. As good a time as a statement of principles as any, then the verdict:

Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to initiate a federal ban on private for-profit provincial health clinics?

Is any party actually calling for this? I didn't even think the NDP were calling for an outright ban on for-profit clinics, just a ban on federal money supporting such clinics. So what option to pick? Somewhat oppose a ban. I don't think the health of Canadians should trump ideology. Show me what can work, but not above all costs. Innovations, that continue to protect universality of treatment and coverage, must be considered.

2. GST:Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to reduce the Goods and Services Tax?

Somewhat oppose reducing GST. I am fine with keeping it stable, though would appreciate it if Liberals who crow about Martin's accomplishments in Finance would consider giving the GST some of the credit. Somewhat, because it could be reduced on some essentials.

3. MARIJUANA:Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to legislate the decriminalization of marijuana?

Easy. Strongly support decriminalization.

4. GAS TAX:Thirty per cent of fuel costs in Canada stem from federal and provincial taxes and surcharges. Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to immediately reduce or maintain current federal tax levels on gasoline?

Here I will go with Neither, since I somewhat support reducing the "taxing the tax" elements that increase the % as the prices rise. On the flip side, taxes provide incentives toward alternatives, an increasingly important environmental consideration going forward.

5. HANDGUN BAN:Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to legislate a new handgun ban?

Strongly oppose handgun ban. The key word here is "legislate" a new handgun ban. Don't think it would make a jot of difference (isn't there something comprehensive in place?) and we have plenty of other legislative priorities. This idea is pure politics that I'm buying.

6. LOBBYISTS:Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to legislate a five-year waiting period on people leaving government positions before becoming lobbyists?

Why not Strongly support five-year waiting period? Some may argue it is too long, but let's clean up the revolving door. That will keep politicians who lose from entering the walls of power through the back door, via patronage connections. Sounds overdue.

7. CONSTITUTION: Do you want your Prime Minister to amend the constitution to remove the federal use of the Notwithstanding clause?

It has never been used at the federal level, the stigma attached is already great enough, the sunset clause and future Parliaments can reverse any effects, and it might just act as an appropriate escape down the road. Needless to say, Strongly oppose removing the Notwithstanding clause.

8. SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to revisit the same-sex marriage law in Canada and have a free vote in Parliament on this issue?

Another no brainer. Strongly oppose revisiting the same-sex marriage debate. The right side won.

9. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to introduce legislation that will work to create proportional representation in Canada?

Only Somewhat support proportional representation. As with many post-Clinton political questions, it depends on what you mean by "proportional representation". In theory, strongly. In practice, let's look at the model.

10. FIXED ELECTION DATES: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to support having fixed election dates?

Another idea whose time has come. Strongly support fixed election dates.

11. MORE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to legislate more annual national holidays for Canadians?

Bizarre. I guess I have to say Strongly support creating new national holidays. March 17th baby!! :) T.F.I. Friday this year will be extra golden.

12. CHILD CARE: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to create a national early child care program or deliver a monthly cheque of $100 per child under six to cover costs?

Here's a tough one. I will go with Somewhat support an early child care program. I do - but this needs to be targeted particularly to parents who desperately need this support (single/poor). Yet I am wary of the Conservative argument that a one-size fits all solution of limited effect in rural areas and may discriminate against those who choose to stay at home. It is an issue I hope a Minority Parliament will sort through a viable compromise. [Full disclosure: my mom stayed home with her 3 children until we turned 6 and I am certainly better for it. She is a working professional who went back to university for a degree only a few years ago and surely doesn't regret her choice either]

13. SOFTWOOD LUMBER:Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to tax Canadian energy exports to the U.S. in retaliation of the U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber?

Again, I feel I have qualify my position here - so put me down to as Neither. There simply has to be consequences to clear violations of NAFTA beyond talk, and our threats must be credible. I am not convinced that this particular moment is the optimum time, but I am not against the idea in principle.

14. MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to legislate mandatory minimum sentences for specified crimes?

I agree with Cotler in that mandatory minimums likely do little, and that said, it may be time for a new approach to increasing gun crime. Remember that these prevent consideration of the exceptions (ie. Robert Latimer). But, for guns, I'll Somewhat support introducing mandatory minimums.

15. MISSILE DEFENCE: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to support or oppose Canada's participation in the U.S. plan for a missile-defence shield?

We should remain open to the idea until a plan is on the table. What is the harm in doing nothing but postponing the decision, especially considering we know nothing of the details? We can always refuse to go along when we see what they want from us. That said, once it is on the table, I will almost certainly be opposed - so Somewhat oppose missile defence (but support at least respectable relations?)

16. ARCTIC SOVEREIGNTY: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to support the establishment of a deep-water port in Iqaluit to protect Canada's sovereignty?

Neither. Honestly, on this issue, I could really care less.

17. HOCKEY: Do you support a plan for Quebec to send its own hockey team, separate from Team Canada, to international competitions?

You want to see intense rivalry among federalist territories, sit yourself down in a Glasgow pub for Scotland-England. That said, this idea is ridiculous. Strongly oppose a separate Quebec hockey team.

18. KYOTO: Do you want your Prime Minister and his or her political party to implement the international Kyoto Accord aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Somewhat support implementing the Kyoto Accord. I find myself souring on the issue, though, as the party that signed the agreement now champions it, after sitting on its hands for 8 years. It is flawed. We should be honest with ourselves and the world and our failure, but commit to the principles underlying the Accord. That does not include name-calling others who see a different path toward the same goal.

So now the interesting question. Where does the Vote Selector park these votes?

1. Jack Layton Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (100%)
2. Paul Martin Leader of Liberal Party of Canada, Prime Minister of Canada (66%)
3. Stephen Harper Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (61%)
4. Gilles Duceppe Leader of the Bloc Quebecois (52%)

Alexa's got my vote anyway, and the closeness of the Liberal v. CPC adequately reflects my non-fear over who actually leads the country. Not bad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

On Coalition-Building

From the Toronto Star this morning:
Prime Minister Paul Martin is asking New Democrat voters to form a "coalition" at the ballot box next week to avert a Conservative government and save Canada's social programs.
Funny. I heard Jack Layton has been calling for the same thing:
There has to be a strong party in the next Parliament ready, willing and able to lead Parliament to a more reasonable, balanced approach. An approach that puts ordinary working people at the head of the line, not at the back of the line. The Liberals can’t do that, and they won’t do that. They’re going to be busy thinking about themselves for the next few years, not you.That’s why I’m appealing directly to Canadians who have voted Liberal in past elections. This time, in this election, I’m asking you to switch to the NDP.
You know, I have looked over the "Think Twice" website and Maude Barlow's MacLean's blog in recent days and I have to wonder. Amidst all the inglorious fearmongering over the dire consequences of what will (in all likelihood) be another minority government, amidst all the clamour about policies that will die or be killed, just what is their alternative?

This is an election, after all. And it should be about proposing choices. I have long since had enough of left-wing sanctimony, shrill negativity, bland acceptance of increasingly aimless leadership and empty rhetoric. Even knowing the outcome, I probably still would have voted Nader in Florida in 2000, based on the paucity of offerings by Gore. Even though I was forced to side with Kerry in the end based on real evidence of Bush's disastrous, unchecked policy-making, I started out with Dean early on, when he was actively opposing the Bush agenda and proposing solutions instead of the coddlers in the Senate who swing only with public opinion. Give me reform Democrats any day, who speak productively about their vision for the country as well, and who seek the votes to implement it.

It is almost as if too many of the "think twice" mindset don't understand that a plurality of votes FOR your ideas WINS. Don't think elections can move enough votes? Look no further than Harper in Quebec this time 'round. You want me to "think twice" - then go offer yourselves as candidates for the job, instead of asking me to vote for those who have continually disappointed me these past few years. Actively support and campaign on a platform Canadian voters can support. In a minority Parliament, every member and every vote could be crucial, and gets an actual say on the decisions that actually get made.

Until you do so, I will impute to you about as "credibility" as the Prime Ministerial candidate you impliedly endorse - none. At least Layton gets the magnitude of this opportunity in the closing days. Just imagine if more of these so-called "progressives" were with him from the beginning...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Monday Morning Nietzche Thought

"Do you believe then that the sciences would ever have arisen and become great if there had not beforehand been magicians, alchemists, astrologers and wizards, who thirsted and hungered after abscondite and forbidden powers"?

-F.N., 1886

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Kinsella Dream Scenario

(a late-night thought experiment)

Imagine, for a second, the following concatenation of events:

1. A robust CPC minority victory - say 140 CPC to 75 Libs to 60 BQ to 35 NDP.

2. An impressively moderate opening display by Harper in the Spring sitting, highlighted by (a) the passing of extremely popular Accountability measures with all parties save the Liberals and (b) a February budget sprinkled with a few NDP pet programs and amenable to the provincially-oriented Bloc.

3. A Liberal party in increasing disarray, unsure of what to make of the CPC agenda and whether Paul Martin should/will stay or go. Rumours abound as would-be contenders organize throughout the summer BBQ circuit, culminating in a late Summer/early Fall press conference called by Martin finally announcing his retirement.

4. The CPC, eager to capitalize on the Liberal turmoil and having exhausted their willingness to cooperate/compromise with other opposition parties, find a way to engineer their own defeat. Harper does so in hopes of winning the extra 15 or so seats required to form a majority. Layton and Duceppe go along in hopes of burying the Liberals.

5. Martin has resigned and the now official leadership race is well underway. No Liberals in high places fancy a third running of the "Choose Your Canada" campaign with Martin and his organizers at the helm. And Martin, tired and disillusioned and not wanting to risk further embarrassment, resists the lukeworm calls to emulate Trudeau after the fall of Joe Clark's government in 1979.

6. But neither can Liberals agree on who should be annoited the standard bearer for the second election of 2006. Organizing a leadership convention on such notice is out of the question, and fervently opposed by the many underdog candidates who oppose the acclamation of a young Frank McKenna.

7. Enterprising Liberals note that the Liberal Constitution, in provision 17(3), allows that: "Forthwith upon the death or resignation of the Leader, the National Executive in consultation with the national caucus shall appoint an interim Leader of the Party." There are concerns over simply selecting someone within the caucus to head a national election.

8. Calls get made. Apparently, word gets leaked that there is a former Liberal leader out there with experience at the helm of many federal campaigns and has the stomach for one more election. He agrees to resign the post within 6 months of the election date, in time for the Convention. The Maritinites on the National Executive, seeing no other reasonable alternative, agree to his appointment.

9. AND SO - channelling Trudeau, out of retirement for one last dance rides the feisty street-fighting Jean Chretien. With the Gomery allegations a distant memory and the new Accountability and Democratic Reform measures in place, the Canadian public is again reminded of the prosperity of the Liberal years. Harper's media honeymoon ends and he grows increasingly impatient and angry at the forgiveness shown to the former PM.

10. Welcome to 2007, says Chretien, who goes down in history as the improbable redeemer of the Liberal party of Canada. I know this is all crazy, idle science fiction, of course. Just having a laugh late Sunday night.

But you never can tell, and just when you think you've seen it all, you watch that Steelers victory over the Colts this afternoon? No one can say we don't live in interesting times.

Looking Forward

Frank McKenna would be an impressive and accomplished leadership contender for the Liberals. Unfortunately, he may soon find himself offered help by the cast of characters that have proved so ineffective in the PMO of Team Martin (via Tiger and Wells):

Les fidèles organisateurs de Paul Martin (David Herle, Mike Robinson, Brian Guest, Scott Reid, Terry O'Lerry, Tim Murphy, entre autres) entendent tout faire pour s'assurer que la machine qui a permis à M. Martin de déloger Jean Chrétien après 10 ans de lutte fratricide travaillera à faire de Frank McKenna le prochain chef du PLC.

(basic translation - the loyal organizers of Paul Martin intend to do everything in their power to ensure that the machine that permitted Martin to dislodge Chretien will work to make McKenna the next leader)

Ugh. Jokes aside, that cast of characters needs the boot from the top of the Liberal party as much as Martin, given their proven abilities. The new leader must be first and foremost a champion of ideas, not organization. Hopefully, Frank may find a polite way to say thanks, but no thanks to these folks...

What will the "gesture" look like?

From Wells:

"Mr. Orchard will also pose a significant gesture in favour of Paul Martin’s Liberals at a press conference that will be held, Monday, January 16, 2006, in the heart of the historic city of Quebec and the Huron-Wendake nation."

Politics doth make strange bedfellows, indeed. Does anyone think this news will alter a single vote? Interesting that Orchard was not successfully courted by Layton though.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Drunken Hystrionics Etcetera

Reviewing the late-night, insanity-fuelled posts below, there is a method to the madness somewhere... I should add that Cherniak deserves more respect for his loyalty than many give him credit for - I think we just fundamentally disagree on the correct tactics of electioneering. He also has a far greater history with the Liberal party, and perhaps is more forgiving in the face of alternatives than I tend to be. His is at least much more admirable than the gloating of Kinsella in recent days. I wonder how long it will take for the wounds of the Chretien-Martin camps to heal, and worry that will trump more critical idea-oriented discussions that need airing. Much depends on the new hierarchs of the party drawing on new blood.

And I will let the rest of the music (and inexplicable commentary to it) stand where it is posted. I had a great story about the craic: about how I won the draw early at Stayner's Wharf again and exchanged the prize of gift certificate, hat, shirt, and bottle of Vodka for a chance to choose the mystery box, even as I knew it would be a lesser prize. I should have stayed with the Red Snapper, Cuni, as only a $3 bottle of Hot Sauce was in the box. Stupid! You're so stupid! In my defence, I did it for the craic, because it was such an absurd choice no one else would make it.

On a serious note, as Tiger notes below, the Globe (predictably at this point) jumps on the bandwagon and endorses a change. I'll close with a few lines that well summarize my thoughts:
Hard choices give way to easy spending, and long-term thinking is overwhelmed by short-term calculation. Lacking firm policy anchors, a heavily politi-cized Prime Minister's Office bobs from issue du jour to issue du jour, neglecting enduring challenges in favour of quick hits that hold out the promise of instant gratification.

Fresh thinking is demanded, but the same old elected officials supported by the same old circle of advisers naturally come up with the same old solutions.

Mr. Martin, a modest and honourable man personally, has done little to challenge this culture, despite so promising during the leadership race. His parliamentary reforms proved a damp squib. Electoral reform died on the vine.

The final reason summarizes everything in 6 words: "Change is essential in a democracy." For all the worry at Cherniak's and others, there is a telling unwillingness to rebut these charges. I would venture it is because they cannot.

When Liberals claim no one else is fit for the job as the main reason for their re-election, something certainly needs changing. Harper isn't as scary as more of the same. A lot of "progressive" bloggers have been shown up in the past month as Liberal partisans who desperately need to start putting the true interests of the country over party.

I may be proven wrong about Harper. But at least he will be up front about his positions, the West will feel vindicated after many years in the dark, and we can get on with discussion about the changes the nation requires. And it will be interesting and a tad unpredictable again.

Why Liberals Who Rebuild Must Worry...

ya'll have to deal with the over-confident Kinsellas and the delusional Cherniaks.

What a damn mess. Why cannot the left ever isolate the enthusiasts who really actually care about policy? The country would be the better for it. Myself, I'm waiting for St. Pat's and Robbie Burns Day, in reverse order. Otherwise, I likely just cannot be bothered... what can you say? Seek out JC for one who watches his daily hits.

Until I hear otherwise from the wise English men Cooper and McNair, Ahab's unconditionally supports McKenna and Dion as future leaders of the nation, in whatever form. And in non-Cherni/leadership-type fashion, where we stand is where we sit. The rest is Shakespearean silence.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Let the Craic be Mighty

Get thee to thy Guiness brewery, and tell her, make her paint an inch thick. Make her laugh at that, Hamlet.

Oh, they be smart. But I tell ya. Well, I don't know. There are better stories, that tire me now. Do others understand the ridiculousness of the "craic"? Do others understand the nature of such sad sacrifice? Patsy? Brian? Niall? My olde Irish compats?

Maybe No. But perhaps in Indy, milady might understand the craic. And if so, she also guessed, on her last leg, one of MacDuffs all-time favorite songs (to hear its unplugged version, as the true 1966 bootleg is no longer with me tonight), surely 'tis Like a Rolling Stone.

More before I sleep, Ms. Scheherezade of 1001 nights. The story-teller of midnight. You have seen this yet. I have further sounds that might work for you... yet we must be diligent...

Maude Barlow Endorses the Liberals

At least in so many words. How frustrating.

Meanwhile, Paul Wells calls out such NDP so-called supporters: "Paul Martin's only hope now is voters who have never agreed with him about anything."

Count me with Wells. Just as Charles Kennedy blew his magnificent opportunity to advance the Liberal Democrat case versus unpopular Labour and Conservative alternatives last May, New Democrats simply cannot continue to claim moral superiority when they cannot draw votes from 1 of 5 people under these circumstances. Layton's failure to make any sort of real breakthrough, along with Harper's surge in Quebec, could end up being the biggest long-term impact of election 2006.

Quote of the (Fri)day

To prove contempt of court, mere discourtesy is not enough.

Consider John Diefenbaker's reply to the Supreme Court of Canada justice who warned, during argument, "Mr. Diefenbaker, in my view there is no basis for your appeal." The Chief emerged personally unscathed after replying, "Well, my Lord, there are six other judges."

Sweet. Go grab your Rum and Coke, it's Friday.

Now Harper's to Lose

The Tiger notes with a mixture of glee and resignation the news of Harper's rise to magic number territory on the verge of a newfound "radical centrism" that seems to be increasingly responsible for the rise in Tory numbers.

At the outset of the campaign, Chantal Hebert had the ironic political observation of the year when she stated that: "in the coming election each [Martin and Harper] will be striving to portray himself as the natural heir of ... the defunct Progressive Conservative party." Harper has cleanly won that battle in a rout, barring something truly dramatic. I have serious doubts if this can be contained through to a majority, but the next occupant of 24 Sussex is no longer in serious doubt. It's a scenario I first imagined back in April 05 - and one I can certainly live with it.

The current Prime Minister, meanwhile, has finally been called out on the gross chasm between his rhetoric and his party's recent actions. A dwindling number of true believers remain content defending this embarrasing gap between bravado and results, even hysterically, incomprehensibily elevating it as a "principle" that trumps sincerity and honest dialogue. Fortunately, a critical mass of others with less investment in Martin seem on the verge of have finally seeing through the hypocrisy of a weak and hesitant leader willing to say anything and spend everything to hold on to power.

Kudos to Harper and his campaign team for doing what John Kerry could not - present enough of the electorate with a liveable alternative. What he has managed in Quebec is truly remarkable. Canadian politics is about to become terribly interesting.

The Appearance of Impropriety

From the Hamilton Spectator (courtesy of Bourque) :

The Facts: Valeri purchased the next-door property on April 29 for $225,000 from Leonard Davis, who had lived there for 50 years with his family... Three months later, Valeri sold the property for $500,000 to John Ng, son of Joe Ng, whose Hamilton-based engineering company has been a longtime supporter of the Liberals at the federal and provincial levels.

Valeri's Spin: “In fact, it was a real estate transaction like any other,” Valeri added. “I guess people will read into it what they want to read into it but I complied with all of the requirements and have done so in a very transparent manner.”

The Question: Valeri states in the article, “My concern was obviously compliance with the Ethics Commissioner,” but is there not a higher standard to be considered here for those in the public eye? Is Valeri blind to the horrific optics of such a transaction?

I won't speculate further - but just pause to note, as Valeri says, to read into it what you want. Not pretty.

More on the Role of the Blog

Bourque links this morning to an Infozone editorial that describes the role of the blog as the "untold story" of Canada's Federal election:
Bloggers have been breaking stories, doing in-depth research, and in many cases putting the main-stream-media in Canada to shame.
No disputing that analysis. The days of a campaign's ebb and emphasis being determined by the national dailies and nightly broadcasts seem over, and [as Scharma notes below] that is no mean feat. Still, my post below wonders if blogs might be used beyond their current (and, arguably, more supplementary) role in shaping how the message gets crafted and, more directly, which candidates succeed. Questions worth pondering.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Blogosphere's Contribution

Time soon for an assessment of the Canadian blogosphere's first real election as it slowly winds to its conclusion on the 23rd. In all, the medium has certainly had a noticeable impact, if only for calling attention to various stories and serving as a source of timely analysis and commentary.

This is all to the good - even if some high-ranking members of the media remain (hilariously) unconvinced. Cosh rightly calls out the absurdity of Ibbitson's "books not blogs" position, reminiscent of the disdain that his colleague Jeffrey Simpson showed for the blogosphere in his otherwise brilliant talk in London I attended last May. Journalists going forward ignore the possibilities offered by the immediacy of such commentary at their peril.

Still, the blogosphere has not caught on in the larger manner I might have anticipated. Too often it still resembles only the glorified echo chamber with little impact outside its own membership. Note that Dean and Trippi tapped the blogs not just for information, but (more crucially) to raise money and help the most committed activists contribute in areas where they were needed most. The commentors on "Dean for America" even played a substantial part in shaping the direction of message and advertising that was then used in the mass markets. Thus far, no party or candidates here seem to have attempted to capitalize on the Internet to substantially mobilize the most committed to help in specific ridings. No party seems to have used the access of the Internet in airing policy ideas or pre-screening marketing strategies. Or even (gasp) to elicit suggestions from their own grassroots.

The campaign "war rooms" certainly have their historic place. But the presumption favoring a hierarchical structure of consultant-dominated message delivery has been shown up. If a more participatory system is truly what we seek, it needs to emerge not only in the way we are governed but also in the how we go about selecting our leaders. In short, it is further reflection on the "Candidates as Hubs of Connectivity" theme Thomas Friedman explored back in the summer. The first Canada political party (or candidate?) to truly tap into the new model could have an advantage.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

white and warm as a rose in the sun...

bar exam complete, and the final questions got a few flippant answers. The challenge at the end was to include a reference to Kevin Keegan, and it was mastered magnificently. Tomorrow will be slow goings, but another hurdle has been leaped.

in honour of that, and the upcoming trip to washington (!) here is a songs. if too many click on it, this so-called "doctor" joe might get upset, but surely we can convince him that technically we are all of the family? And too lazy to download the songs, as easily as we might, for ourselves.

Click on Mario Lanza's "Drink, Drink, Drink" for the mood here in the operatic selections, and on the "oldies" for such timeless classics as "Sunshine on my Shoulders" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square". Oh, Gongshow, how I oftenwish I were back on that London Night Bus with the singing professor, and the feeling that all of life were in front of me. Ah well, we do what we can. Good tidings to all. I shall write nary another examination.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Just about an hour in...

... and for now, I must say I'm rather enjoying this debate - a true and excellent national conversation. Huge props to Steve Paikin for a magnificent job at the moderator's chair thus far.

Dulles International

So, just finished up Day 1 of the Bar Exam, more successful than I rightfully deserve thus far. Actually felt nostalgic this early morning during the last minute grand cramming review, as tomorrow is likely the last day for some time (all time?) that I crank out the hypothetical answers.

Into work just to verify that no critical messages have been left over the holidays, only to find the following:

When: Saturday, February 11, 7:00pm
Phone: 902-880-0087

Hockey Night in DC. Let's show support for our Hometown Boy Sidney Crosby!! The Penguins will be in town to take on the Washington Caps..... Bring your Scotian and Canadian flags.... we will be noticed!!! Face painting optional.......Hope you can make it to DC for the weekend. I have free lodging for all, you will just need to book a flight into Dulles International, I have even taken care of the Game Tickets!! Who's In?

Does this sound like an offer I could refuse, even on one of my weaker days? Better yet, the invitor is so tangentially removed as to make the randomness all the greater. I have seen him on all of two great occasions: his October Oktoberfest garage party and his Christmas celebration where the letter carrier emerged as if out of nowhere. A quick conferral with another reckless carouser and we are online booking flights. $469.01 - Friday to Monday. Who cares if I cannot afford it, I have always longed to visit Washington and when opportunity beckons. And considering that plans for Ottawa on election night were in jeopardy anyway, seems all the more reasonable to exchange one capital for the other.

My oh My oh My. Just another Manic Monday.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The First Real CPC Misstep

At least in my view.

If it is in Harper's interest to tacitly help the NDP keep their voters from jumping Liberal by whatever means possible (as logic and new strategic voting theories might suggest), then it is probably not a good idea to let it be known that you'll be reversing tax cuts intended for the poor. Especially when it is difficult to imagine what other party would support that move anyway:
But it should also prove very interesting to see the first Stephen Harper budget attempt to raise the rate for the lowest income tax bracket back up to 16 from 15 per cent, and also lower the basic personal exemption at the same time. If it's a minority parliament after Jan. 23, it is hard to imagine which of the other parties would back the Conservatives on such a move.

Such a fine line to walk, on such an interesting political campaign. Thank Zeus that at least we are not talking about some "unwanted, unneeded winter election" any longer.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canada's "Accountability Moment"

Here's the thing.

On any ordinary day, the Liberal Party of Canada likely wins a plurality of support among the citizens of the country, especially in times of economic prosperity. Just as there is much to critize and bemoan about the conduct of our Natural Governing Party, Ahab should state at least once during the campaign that there is much to commend about the previous 12 years of rule. I sympathize, more so than my scorn and sarcasm probably indicates, with the devoted partisans who struggle forward on behalf of the Big Red Machine, in weather both foul and fair.

So how to explain the urge, the overwhelming desire to see Paul Martin defeated that engulfs me every night while watching the news? I have danced around and over that question in innumerable posts, of course, so here's the latest attempt. It stems from memory of a post of Andrew Sullivan's at this time last year, speaking of Bush's recent victory. Here it is in its entirety:

"AN ACCOUNTABILITY MOMENT": This quote might help clear up some misunderstandings about president Bush. It certainly helped me see the world as he sees it. For Bush, accountability in government is a total, once-every-four-years thing. Individual mis-steps or mistakes are not subject to accountability - whether in war-planning or fiscal matters or anything else. When someone fucks up, the most important thing is to extend loyalty, not reprimand. There's only one moment of accountability for a president and that's the election, which encompasses everything the president and anyone in his administration have done. So re-election logically means that the public waives its right to hold any individual in government accountable for anything for the next four years:

Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

So our job as people not in the administration is now to sit back and hope for the best. We had our chance. We lost. As Mel Brooks almost observed, it's good to be the president.

Canada's Accountability Moment for these Liberals arrives on January 23rd. This election is not as simple as simply weighing the parties and policies and picking the least worst, not this time. Not when that party has recently treated ensuing mandates as smug vindication of everything they have done in office, and everything they plan to do. Not when, come the elections, they dismiss all challengers summarily as "unfit" for office, and believe only their fly-by-night plans will work for Canada.

The Liberals of recent years have ultimately failed to demonstrate an ability to renew themselves, to step back and take the difficult long view on where the country needs to head and how our resources can be marshalled to get there. In short, to prioritize and lead.

I have little confidence that this will happen until they take a hit. Until they are called to some type of account. Until they are made to realize and accept that other people in this country are quite capable of governing. Until they accept the true diversity of so-called "Canadian values". Until they can demonstrate that it is sometimes better to stand for a tangible belief, even if it means alienating some people or (gasp) losing in the short term, as opposed to desperate pandering to one and all.

This vote is more than simply a token "time for change". This time, it's about reminding a party more caught up in its own internal haggering than the business of the nation that not every decision they make is the perfect one, not every competent Member of Parliament is one of their own.

In a perfect world, election day is not the only moment for accountability, but often it's all our system provides. Canadian voters should make this government aware again that the populace is not simply content to sit back, hope for the best, and trust in rhetoric of an increasingly aimless, stumbling leadership anymore. The Liberals need reminding that we now have the power, means, and ability to hold them to account for the first time in awhile.

If that means giving the new, eager crowd a chance, so be it. There are bigger days ahead. It is time the Natural Governing Party gives itself a much-needed shake and start thinking strategically on how to prepare for them.

UPDATE [minutes later]: uber-Conservative supporter Liam O'Brien is on a similar wavelength, offering a strong endorsement of the NDP as a second choice to his favored party:
Just as those moderate non-die-hard Tories who often voted Tory had to withdraw their support in 1993, so should you non-die-hard moderate folks who normally vote Liberal withdraw your support from this government...

There's a job that we need to get done. It can only happen if people vote Conservative or NDP.

Hilarously, the confused, rambling, and sarcastic response of the first commentor to his post serves only to re-emphasize the point.

Happy Twelfth Night

As in January 5th, the "Eve of Epiphany". or What You Will, one of the absolute favorites of the Shakespearean plays viewed last year.
O time! thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie! -Viola, II, ii

Political Study Break Musings

1. I have to admit enjoyment at watching many at progressive bloggers up in arms over the Conservative ad campaign. Thus far, Harper has been almost note perfect in delivery and tone. Did Liberals expect the Tories to NOT to focus on the reasons for the fall of the government? Why are they surprised that, in a campaign so naturally divided in two parts, the focus has shifted? And as for anticipating the negative attacks of the Liberals? Further evidence of the CPC anticipating the flow of the campaign well, as spelled out by Ottawa Ad Exec Don Masters:
"Perhaps the Conservatives are hoping to prevent the Liberals from going negative," he says, "but if the Liberals don't go negative, the Conservatives can claim that they scared them away from doing so. If the Liberals do go negative, they can say 'We told you so.'"
2. On the Grand Strategy front, Mark Steyn revisits one of his pet claims in a long and impressive WSJ piece - the shifting demographics of Europe and the greater West. Agree with him or not, but in the midst of an (at times) overly petty electoral campaign, it is sobering to keep the long view in perspective. This is a fascinating argument that few are talking about. Yet.

3. In the ongoing saga over Ignatieff's candidacy, count me firmly on the side of this Star article as opposed to the name-calling of this one. His is a cautionary tale of how to make the transition to the rough-and-tumble of politics. Hopefully it serves as a guide to future aspirants, not reason to sit out.

4. Coyne has an interesting and extremely timely response to the Martin government's education announcement this evening. I admit to being more sympathetic to ideas that do not simply dump money in various areas, favoring attempts at innovation over simple announcements of more cash. Wonder how these (and future) announcements will play out. I get the lingering sense that the tide may have already turned, despite irrepressible optimism elsewhere.

5. In my prediction at the campaign's outset, I attempted a cursory run through the ridings and favored the NDP, CPC, and Bloc over the Liberals in the marginal races to arrive at the numbers. At this point, only Layton has failed to consolidate pre-campaign inroads. They are the real hidden story in this election. I simply cannot see how the 43 seats James Bow now predicts is possible, when even the 30 I picked initially is likely a stretch. As the second half of the magic Liberal or CPC majority, they should be able to orchestrate more coverage.

On that note, Harper could stand to benefit enormously from a strong rise in the NDP vote. Can the CPC campaign team figure out how to help disaffected Liberals [who have ruled out the Tories] find Layton? That's the last step toward a sure CPC minority. How creative might they get on that front is a truly fascinating question.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Multimedia for Insomniacs

1. The funniest sketch SNL has done in ages. Double True.

2. Dutch hosts gets the giggles it upon hearing the voice of a guest, while discussing the otherwise solemn topic of sex with a handicapped person. Funny in any language, especially as the audience sits by, stone-faced.

3. IFilm's Best of 2005. Don't miss the painful to watch "Boom Goes the Dynamite" or stunningly bizarre "Will you go to Prom with me?"

4. Collins' Introduction to Poetry.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

"We Can't All Be As Perfect as Chretien"

Such a hilarious, juvenile excerpt from Kinsella yester/today - and a reminder that my sincere hope for rejuvenation in the Liberal party may ultimately prove ill-founded, if all it results in is a return to the fold of the other, equally jaundiced camp.

I understand politics requires such devotion from some. But it still amazes that otherwise reasonably intelligent people can be so naive and embarrassingly (and there is no other word for it) foolish.

I have come to the conclusion that my dire frustration with the Liberal party stems mostly from a frustration that my politics are actually liberal, yet they make it so damn difficult to support them. Does Dion fancy throwing his name into the leadership ring, I wonder. That would be a fun and worthy losing campaign.

On a wholly different note, by far my favorite album of 2006 is Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Just when you think you know what the guitar sounds like. How many words are there for magic? Honestly. It. is. so. good. Listen to this, and marvel. Or this. And, especially, this! Oh My.

This year rocks. My first meal of the year was, remarkably, Haggis (!) at the Scottish levee down the street, and I have already sampled Guinness with a girl we met at the home of the Lieutenant-Governor for the opening levee of the noon. Headed back to the Lower Deck for more in an hour or so.


Happy New Year, all. Who knew the Mercury could be so hilariously outstanding?

A song for your recovery.

Patience through until the last 3 and a half minute instrumental rejuvenation, please.

Oh, Darling. Won't you ease my worried mind. Indeed.