Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

say it ain't so, Joe

Joe Fontana for the leadership of the Liberal party. Doing my birth riding... proud?

You can be excused if you don't know a lot about him. His political career has been extraordinarily undistinguished, considering its longevity. He is probably best remembered as playing a mean set of drums for True Grit - with Jean Chretien on the trombone.

His unbridled passion is unquestionable. Unfortunately, it generally renders him unable to put a sentence together. He sadly doesn't share the cool self-assuredness of Denis Farina's Law and Order character of the same name.

"He said... that support came from housing, labour, and ethno-cultural groups who think he's progressive."

To those that know him, this comes as a bit of a shock. To those that don't:

- he has said that abortion should be limited to "exceptional extenuating circumstances" involving rape or incest (London Free Press, October 12, 1988).
- he opposed same-sex marriage bitterly until he landed a cabinet job, saying such a move would violate "what our country stands for" (separate but equal).
- He was one of a few Liberal MPs that helped the Harper Conservatives narrowly defeat a bill to ban the use of replacement workers in 2005.

But he sure can bang on some drums.

Monday, February 27, 2006

suitably pointless

I don't mind today's Supreme Court review hearing. Why? Both because it served no purpose, and because it may have been perceived as serving some purpose. Allow me to elaborate.

Had today's proceedings actually, in any practical way, 'opened up' the Supreme Court appointment process, than it would have undermined judicial independence and thus, the very framework upon which we operate. How could it have actually embued the process with accountability? By following the American model, simply put. In the most extreme, it could have afforded this committee veto power over the appointment. Almost as bad, Justice Rothstein may have been faced with ideological-litmus-test-type questions about specific cases. The result of either of these would be a politicization of the Supreme Court. Our three orders of government would be consolidated into two (sometimes one). Our Charter would lose all relevance. Etc., etc., etc.

Thankfully, this committee was completely devoid of any real responsibility. It did not have veto power, and its particpants seemed mostly committed to maintaining a suitable decorum. Rothstein did an admirable job of deflecting any question that may have comprimised later court rulings. The committee was asked to evaluate the quality of a candidate that its own membership had recommended. That evaluation was necessarily going to be a good one - but if it hadn't, it wouldn't have mattered in the least.

I'm thusly content with the review process's complete irrelevance. So why, then, do I think it may have been worthwhile? For the simple reason that someone out there may have bought it. A Canadian or two may go to bed tonight believing that the Supreme Court is more accountable. If this has in fact happened, then the position of the Supreme Court vis-a-vis parliament is actually strengthened. Steven Harper has inadvertently bought legitimacy for the institution he sought to limit. With more legitimacy comes less willingness to disregard personally unpopular decisions of the court. More legitimacy means it is harder for Stephen Harper (or Jack Layton if you listen closely enough) to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause. In fact, it makes it easier for us to extinguish that clause all together, at long last.

I'm sure I've made it clear that I don't believe any actual reform of the Supreme Court is necessary (and reform would in fact be wholly damaging). What may be necessary, if we are to ever emphasize the constitutional nature of our constitutional democracy, is a socialization process. Canadians need to understand the non-objectionable nature of an independent Supreme Court. This nothingness disguised as something may serve that purpose.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

in their own words (part 3)

John Godfrey is another potential leadership contender. I'm not sold on his leadership, but he certainly brings something to the race.

From The Canada We Want, written by him and Rob McLean:

"The greatest internal threat to Canada has always come from those who have held out the false promise of simple solutions, whether those simple solutions have come from Quebec separatists or Western populists. The latest threat comes from those who argue for the simplicity of a market-driven economic imperative imposed upon us by the imperative of globalization (29)."

"A health care system for all of us, not just for me: these simple words express both a value system and a complex moral choice that Canadians have chosen to make explicit... It is our contention that in the face of global challenges, the societal imperative is more necessary than ever, not simply because it is the right thing to do (though it is), not merely because it is in the great historical tradition of Canada, but because our future survival as a country demands it. To think and act as a society is what "real countries" do (53-55)."

"In the last quarter-century, National Projects have faded away, except in Quebec. There are a number of reasons for this, including government deficits and a general lack of confidence in the ability of governments to play the leadership role that is essential for successful National Projects. The question before us now is whether Canada should forever abandon this strategy for nation-building that was so successful in our collective past, or if, aw we believe, it is time for a new wave of National Projects (7)...the foundations for Canada's success... were laid in the extraordinary period roughly between 1950 and 1975... we can count six great National Projects: public health insurance and the health care system; education; income security; human rights; Canadian culture and research; and physical infrastructure (27)."

Do with that what you will.

good lord

From Christina Blizzard's most recent Sun Media column:

"When McGuinty became premier, the Ipperwash inquiry became yet another way to discredit the previous government. That's too bad, because this shouldn't be about politics. It's about a terrible tragedy, and how we can avoid anything like this from happening again. "

This is a pretty irrational assertion. Should the inquiry not have been called? Should McGuinty have waited to be replaced by a Conservative government before an inquiry could happen? She means niether thing, I'm sure. Just needs to think things through.

The issue was politicized when the PC government acted out of schocking partisanship by refusing to call it upon themselves. Otherwise, any question of the political capital it carries is a discredit to the process.

in their own words (part 2)

It seems next to certain that Scott Brison will take a stab at the leadership of the Liberal party. He is considered by many, even, to be a frontrunner.

Now one can talk about how wise it is, giving the current public climate, to choose for our leader a recent floorcrosser. One can question his loyalty to the Liberal party in lu of the vociferous attacks he launched as a PC. One can question whether he remains loyal only to his ambition. But all of these things are secondary, in my mind, to the vision he would actually advance as leader.

From his speech at the 2003 PC Leadership Convention:

“I have a vision of a Canada… with a tax system that rewards hard work and investment instead of attacking ambition and imagination… a leadership… with the courage to cut wasteful spending… a Canada trusted by the United States and trusted by the world… I believe we need to overhaul our tax system to unleash our entrepreneurial spirit… I want to replace Canada’s failed regional development programs and corporate welfare with dramatic corporate and small business tax reductions, because the market can do a far better job of picking winners and losers than the politicians and bureaucrats. I believe in a new EI system… and EI system that works for Canadians who work. I believe in a new Canada-US security and economic partnership… Our party will succeed because our ideas are right and the Liberals are wrong!"

I was selective here, but if I'm suspected of a deliberate misrepresentation by all means listen to it yourself. What we have is Brison in a nutshell - an unapologetic Progressive Conservative. His vision reaches far beyond the fiscal conservatism of even Paul Martin. I'm removed from him ideologically, but that aside - this would be nothing short of devesating to the Liberal party. Coming from a region that the NDP have recently stolen wholesale, I can attest to the excruciating nature of attempting to colour the Liberal party as progressive and socially-responsible when past budgets have been dedicated to corporate tax cuts. We lost that argument, and in the eyes of Canadians we will lose it again.

The centrepiece of Scott Brison has always been his belief in entering into some sort of North American security condo. I feel I can be brief here - the Maude Barlows of the world can tell you why that's a bad idea. Suffice to say, that is not what most Liberals - and more importantly, most Canadians - ever want to see.

But he's socially liberal, right? Well - he is, on certain issues. But don't confuse the man for the politician. During his time as a PC he was vocally in favour of alligning his party with the Alliance, and he voted in favour of doing just that. I'll allow him to define himself any way he wishes, of course. He knows better than I. But that does project a shadow of a doubt - if not on his social liberalism than on the importance he lends to it.

Now is not the time for Scott Brison.

UPDATE: I don't mean to be too tough on the ole' boy. He is a tremendous speaker, a dedicated Maritimer, etc. I am always extremely glad to have him aboard - I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I have a letter in the Freeps today. This Deb Hutton business has really gotten to me. This is as close as I can come to telling it to her face:

Ipperwash lawsuits found indefensible

Regarding thee article, Ipperwash witness threatens lawsuit (Feb. 10):

Former Mike Harris aide Deb Hutton's threat to bring lawsuits against newspapers covering the Ipperwash inquiry is singularly shocking. She demonstrates utter disrespect for the inquiry and its purpose, not to mention the responsibilities of the Fourth Estate. Indeed, in pursuing this bizarre act of litigiousness, Hutton has demonstrated a near-reckless resistance to any public dissemination of the truth.

By training her lawyers on papers such as Grand Bend's Lakeshore Advance -- with a readership of fewer than 1,500 -- she assures herself some easy victories. These papers have neither the resources nor the time to fight such a case.

But Hutton should hesitate before she counts this wielding of political connectedness as any true victory. Where she has gained an empty apology or two, she has forfeited all benefit of the doubt.

So I have defended the London Free Press publicly. That, I can say fairly confidently, will be a last. And they edited the damn thing down - it doesn't resonate anymore.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

we make the news

Halifax's Chronicle Herald has this to say about Ignatieff and his plans for Nova Scotia.

Paragraph 8: Mr. Ignatieff’s vision for Halifax was prompted by a question concerning economic development in the Maritimes, and he said the proposed endeavour would come with a hefty price tag.

Who asked such a question? Our very own Steve.

Also, Oskee wee wee. Between the Ticats and the Jays this is going to be a sweet summer.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Missile Defense

Note: I just recently realized that this post got very jumbled in cutting and pasting I suppose. I've edited, not trying to change much, but not remembering exactly what was in the original.

On Ballistic Missile Defense, I thought I would mention that Michael Ignatieff's position does seem to have been misconstrued quite a bit. His speech to the LPC convention can be interpreted in a variety of ways on this issue. A common interpretation has been to suggest he supports BMD. This is inferred from what to me has always seemed far from unqualified, and surprisingly misunderstood. More concretely, I have heard him explicity say that he does not support BMD, for its unpredictability, potential to lead to the weaponization of space, etc. What he took issue with was the way in which the decision was made, in his opinion it was done indecisively and weakened our standing. Questions remain, of course, particularly with regards to what he means by not letting a "principled decision" stand in the way of our soveriegnty, if not alluding to support for missile defense. I'll leave an interpretation of that for now (However, he did say in the same speech that Liberals should not be continentalists), but I do think its important to state that the accepted reading has been incorrect. Ignatieff is not for BMD.

What is he for? Well, we are not completely clear on this, though as far as international relations he has written and spoken extensively. However, I think its important to remember that we also don't know other potential candidates' positions on a multitude of issues, including this one.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

in their own words (part 1)

Without much else going on, we are probably all much consumed with the imminent leadership race. I'm personally trying to sort myself out, and learn as much as I can about possible contenders. As I learn I shall share my "insights."

As much as quotation digging and cherrypicking has thus far dumbed down the discourse to an embarrassing degree, I have done some of my own... well.. cherrypicking. In fairness, I am genuinely still making up my mind, so my quotables aren't driven by any agenda. Nevertheless - understand them for what they are. In the case of certain academics that are most interesting to me, they are vast and complex works of thoughtful inquiry reduced to a matter of sentences.

First and foremost, Michael Ignatieff and Iraq. This is just for starters. From The Year of Living Dangerously (op-ed New York Times):

"What tipped me in favor of taking these risks was the belief that Hussein ran an especially odious regime and that war offered the only real chance of overthrowing him. This was a somewhat opportunistic case for war, since I knew that the administration did not see freeing Iraq from tyranny as anything but a secondary objective...

When I said that here was the fundamental case for war, friends scoffed. Didn't I know that the administration couldn't care less if Iraq was decent as long as it was stable and obedient? I replied that if good results had to wait for good intentions, we would have to wait forever.

So supporting the war meant supporting an administration whose motives I did not fully trust for the sake of consequences I believed in."

Those consequences were, of course, the defeat of a leader that engages in ethnic warfare and genocide. This is not to say his endorsement of the war is water-tight or uncontroversial. Many - most - supporters of this sort of Human Security doctrine still opposed the war. Can/should good results be anticipated when objectives are flawed? This is a difficult question, one I'm still coming to terms with. My first instinct has been that they should not.

We can extrapolate one uncontroversial thing from this excerpt, however. Ignatieff cannot be reduced to a "Bush backer." This seems, unfortunately, to be a necessary starting point.


Today Michael Harris testifies at the Ipperwash Inquiry (as well as tomorrow, Thursday, and Monday).

Watch a live webcast of the proceedings at

We may, in 2006, feel fairly removed from Ipperwash and Mr. Harris. But a lot of people have waited a very long time for this - and we (Canada) owe it to them to pay attention. It's quite possible that Mr. Harris will cement his place in history over the course of the next few days - but only if we're watching.

This process is of stand alone importance and really shouldn't have to be sold in current contextual terms. Nevertheless, I've feel compelled to point out that this man's one-time Attorney General responsible for Native Affairs is now Canada's Finance Minister. Mike Harris is, by proxy, still a force in government.

Monday, February 13, 2006

floor-crosser legislation

This has been alluded to in the discussion recently. It's worthwhile to explain why I still think it is a bad idea, despite that the audacity of the Emerson-Harper move still has me catching my breath.

The last thing the House of Commons needs is more power invested in the hands of the party exec. As is, individual members are straight-jacketed by party discipline and rarely able to act on conscience. Rather than 308 voices acting in agreement or disagreement, the HOC is reduced to four voices of varying strengths.

Party discipline serves a purpose. I'm not advocating the American free-for-all. However, in extraordinary circumstances, MPs need access to some escape route from the hegemony of the party.

Because of recent history, floor crossing has become synonymous with careerism. The fact is, such a move can be - and often has been - an act of purest principle. It is a way to protest a dangerous change in leadership, an unexpected policy position, etc. A forced by-election is an obvious deterrent from making such an on-conscience move. That's not necessarily because the member in question is wrong, or their move is illegitimate. It may just take time for them to make their point.

Ultimately, I file this with certain Proportional Representation proposals: seemingly democratic but essentially endorsements of elitism.

None of the above apply to David Emerson, of course. But a legislative overreaction would be harmful in the long run. We can content ourselves with knowing that Emerson's career is essentially over - it's just a matter of time.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


When Mr. Harper built his cabinet, he was faced with the difficult task of balancing representation, experience, and legitimacy. The latter has proven most difficult.

To ensure representation for Vancouver, and to secure the expertise of an eminently qualified Minister of International Trade, he drafted a man that ran under the Liberal banner two weeks previously.

To ensure representation in Montreal, he appointed an unelected senate member (albeit to a non-Montreal senate riding).

He's faced pretty steep criticism on both accounts. So let's give credit where credit is due. Given pretty shallow talent in Quebec/any Francophone community, and needing to appoint a representative for La Francophonie, Stevo found himself in a pickle. Does he draft talent from another party? Does he assign a francophone friend of his that has never faced the electorate? Does he build a robot with a french language chip installed? Or build a new franco Conservative out of the body parts of deceased ones?

Not Harper the democrat. Canadians wanted accountability, and that's what they'd have. Consequently, our Parlimentary Secretary for La Francophonie is an English Unilingual Albertan.

But he does plan on taking French lessons... so that's good.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I never gave a good goddamn about lip sinking musicians. I was bothered when non-lip sinkers were lent automatic esteem on those grounds alone.

Of course Garth Turner has been (mutedly) critical of David Emerson. He eviscerated Stronach for crossing the floor on an issue. When Gary Carr left the provincial Tories for the federal Liberals, Turner called him "an arrogant flip-flopper," a "politician of convenience."

Why are people canonizing this man? He suggested mildly that it might be an ok idea for Mr. Emerson to face a by-election - but "Harper surely had sound reason for his decision." He stayed mildly consistent from one week to the next.

This demonstrates to me that ethical standards are fairly low for members of all parties.
You don't need me to tell you that this is unbelievable. Here I am criticizing the Lakeshore Advance for its shocking tendency to apologize for Ipperwash inquiry witnesses. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, it's facing libel and slander charges. This makes me wish I mentioned Deb Hutton by name. I guess I still can:

Ms. Hutton remembers far more about what has to be one of the formative moments in her political career than she pretended to in her testimony.

We have ever right to believe Ms. Hutton was directly involved in this extraordinary and appalling overstretch of the legislative branch.

I'll expect something in the mail.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

publish me, woman

On the eve of Mike Harris' testimony for the Ipperwash inquiry, this is what a local journalist has to say.

I've posted my (unpublished) response. Are there bigger fish to fry? Yes. But dangerous thinking out of anyone from anywhere is dangerous thinking. Also, she won't publish my rebuttal in her tiny little newspaper and I'm a small, small, petty man.

In last week's paper, an editorial was published concerning the Ipperwash Inquiry. The column concluded that racism played no role in Dudley George's death. Rather, this was our justice system working the way that it ought. If you break the law, "you have to pay."

The piece is correct in one assertion. The prolonged tension at Stony Point carries at its crux a simple need for law and order. However, the actors have been confused.

Let’s revisit the last century of history at Ipperwash with all possible brevity. The Stony Point treaty initially incorporated far more land than it does now. There seems to be a need to be perfectly clear here – land treaties are legal documents. That treaty was a guarantee of ownership in the same way that the deed to a house is a guarantee of ownership. This did not deter the federal government in 1942 from expropriating a significance portion of that land and uprooting its inhabitance in order to establish an army base.

Clifford George tells a poignant story. He returned home in 1945 after distinguished service in the Canadian army – vanquishing the administrators of holocaust in a far distant land. He returned to find that his home was barracks, his backyard a shooting range. Clifford George slept in a ditch on that first night of his homecoming.

The land was taken through the War Measures Act – a temporarily legal transaction. It was to be returned when the act was revoked. Such is the law. By 1995, the year of Dudley’s death, Clifford George was still unable to go home. Years of protracted negotiations had rendered such generous governmental offerings as a 1981 Order in Council that ensured the land would be returned – when “no longer needed for military purposes.” I suppose the Stony Pointers have to appreciate the ceaseless war and military expansion Canada has experienced since the 1980s… right?

The point being made is a simple one. All Dudley George was asking on the day of his death was that the government of this country submits to the rule of law. If our sovereign authority liberally transgresses our legal code for convenience sake, how can we be expected to do otherwise?

As for the question of racism – this is a difficult one. Now that political correctness has itself become politically incorrect, we are no longer allowed to toss these accusations about. Heaven forbid I “play the race card” in 2006 – most seem to feel that that ancient sociological element has been completely bred out of our systems in the past 40 years. I’m not so confident. Nevertheless, Beaubien probably isn’t a racist. Mike “I want the [expletive deleted] Indians out” Harris may well be a poster boy for tolerance.

What can’t be denied is that the Stony Point First Nations were faced with circumstances that White Canada will never face. Ask yourself if you believe Ancaster is at risk of being parceled out of the hands of its legal owners. If another major war effort should be launched, do you believe Army Camp Masonville will become a reality?

Perhaps this should be taken a step further. If your Huron Woods home were taken from you, if the graveyard that houses your grandfather was contaminated with military waste, what would you do? Would the law start to lose its relevance?
I can say without hesitation that I’d want those that have broken the law and stripped me of everything to pay.

conspiracy theory cont'd

I want to build on my last post. I am ever more disturbed by these allegations, and not for the reasons that the Liberals behind the story intended.

To reach a softwood lumber agreement in principle, then remain mum so as not to forfeit our ability to criticize George Bush over the course of the election? This actually lends credence to the generally pathetic conservative charge of picking diplomatic fights for the sake of politics.

The act itself was dishonest and shouldn't have happened. The act of deliberately leaking this information is a real head-scratcher from a Liberal insider point of view (is anyone really going to believe that Emerson deliberately held up this agreement with the intention to orchestrate some vast personal glory grab? Would he have criticized Stevo so vocieferously during the campaign if he had always planned on crossing the floor?).

Is new blood needed in this party. Lord yes.


Stevo Harper on the uproar created by David Emerson's defection:

"I expected some of the superficial criticism I've seen."

Sorry friend, we're new to this opposition thing. From now on we'll keep our criticims a little weightier:

In a press released entitled "Reality Check," the Conservative party blasted the Liberal leader for flying in a Boeing 727.
"Liberal Leader Paul Martin flew in to Montreal today to boast about his clean air record. Um, but he flew in quite the gas guzzler! Paul Martin is jetting around in a Boeing 727 - one of the world's noisiest and most environmentally unfriendly aircraft," the press release reads.

So David calls himself Liberal, David calls himself Conservative - let's call the whole thing off.

On a more serious note, this is interesting: Star Emerson Article.

Didn't really think this could get seamier. Let's just ensure that we don't succumb to conspiracy theory and Sheila Copps ourselves out of a legitimate grievance.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

hold the bugle call

Monsieur Solberg is bowing out, with less frivolous things ahead of him. I wish I had a teary send off as my most respected peers do. I wish I had that "hey - we're all bloggers, unburdened by partisanship, in this the most honest of mediums" cavalier...ness(ship?). New to this as I am, I haven't figured out yet how using that dry-self-deprecation-straight talk-humour-bloggy tone forgives stupidity.

"... In a Kyoto compliant Canada we'll... sit around in our hemp shirts and potato sack pants."

That's stupid. That's our Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Sorry. Give me time.

The Anointed One

After endless weeks of speculation, the woman expected to inherit the Liberal party has declared her candidacy. Martha Hall Findlay - "Marth" in kitchens across this country - has officially opened the leadership race.

This is a beautiful thing. I consider the man hours dedicated over the past month to running Brian Tobin searches through Hansard, to tracking down minutes from Carlyle Group meetings, to going to Tim Hortons to buy the coffee to stay awake during a Manley speech... And it's Martha frigging Hall Findlay.

Allow me to preempt the inevitable news media excuses. Fact is, someone should've picked up on this. She's not an MP, nor a candidate, yet ran a website featuring general interest gems like a picture of "Martha discussing the environmental considerations undertaken in the construction of York Region's Community Safety Village with Peter Orved."

I really genuinely applaud the audacity. This is the way these sorts of things are supposed to work. I pledge to you, Martha, that I will get to know you better.