Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rae's record begs questions that have not been asked

I will not discus Bob Rae’s record as premier. The truth is it’s not that relevant. I certainly don’t believe he could recreate his Queen’s Park disaster in Ottawa. The tendencies of one man simply can’t overcome that fiscal restraint that has become so deeply entrenched in the Federal Liberal agenda. His record poses electability problems, sure. In Hamilton and other cities in Ontario where the NDP are a threat we have used his name for years as indication of how bad things could get. It would be unfortunate to have to forego this argument, but nevertheless.

It is his values record that has been inexplicably ignored thus far, and requires a closer look. He is (or was, prior to Dion’s theoretical surge) billed as Quebec’s candidate. He has invited us recently - vis-à-vis other leadership candidates – to examine the current package in light of historical stances. I suggest that we do to him the same.

Bob Rae claims popularity amongst some Quebecois because of his past involvement in constitutional reform. Rae was a fervent defender of the Meech Lake Accord, and later, an architect of Charlottetown. This position – peculiarly untouched over the course of the leadership race thus far – leaves him dialectically opposed to many Liberals.

He has written extensively on these misguided endeavours. But one needs not wade into decade-old speeches. His website CV screams his support:

“As Leader in the Opposition in Ontario, I argued strongly in favour of the Meech Lake Accord, and as Premier of Ontario I helped negotiate the Charlottetown Accord. These experiences have led me to believe that Canada's strength lies in its diversity and in the realization by all of its citizens that no matter where in the country they are, they are part of a nation and belong to a community where their distinctiveness, perspectives, and traditions are welcomed. The federal government should set the example by working with provinces, citizens and communities to ensure that voices from across Canada are heard and considered.”

When asked what drives separatism, Rae is unequivocal: "The country would be in better shape if the Meech Lake Accord had passed.”

He has written that Pierre Trudeau et al “[were] arguing in defiance of Canadian history.” Whilst many Liberals celebrate Trudeau’s achievements, Rae isolates Trudeau as the source of this federation’s ills: “…we have seen the danger of governing in the name of a theory.”

Brian Mulroney, on the other hand, “showed great courage and great energy in his defence of the country and I fully supported his attempts to further reform the Constitution…” [By way of context, that last line was delivered at a speech celebrating great Liberal Alan McEachen. He was explaining his willingness to admit when even his most bitter enemies were right. Why else (this was a few years ago) would he be speaking kindly about a Liberal? Of McEachen Rae quips: “An opponent of George Bernard Shaw described him as ‘a good man fallen among Fabians’ and I have always felt that Allan J. was ‘a good man fallen among Liberals.’" Did Rae, at this time, have any inkling of what the future held? But I digress]

To suggest that Meech is history is wrong, outright. We are one PQ victory – nay, one ambitious PM only – away from reinvigorating the old debate. If my Liberal party became the party of a Distinct Society, and willingly flew in the face of all that Trudeau fought for, I don’t know where I’d turn.

This is a live issue, and one that Rae must answer to.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Suzuki Foundation weighs in on carbon taxing

One legitimate apolitical perspective on carbon taxing:

From the David Suzuki Foundation:
Carbon tax makes sense for Canada -- U.S. has had one for years
June 15, 2006

OTTAWA – Canada should consider a broad array of tools to reduce climate change and pollution, including “polluter pay” initiatives such as a carbon tax, says the David Suzuki Foundation.

“A carbon tax is just a fair way of ensuring that polluters pay for their waste, so those costs aren’t passed on to the rest of society through damage to our health, environment and economy,” says Pierre Sadik, senior policy advisor for the David Suzuki Foundation. “Right now, polluters just dump those costs onto the average taxpayer.”

The idea of a carbon tax stirred up controversy in the House of Commons this week, but Mr. Sadik points out that the United States has already had a carbon tax for years, called the “Superfund.” Money collected through this modest tax on oil revenues is used to clean up toxic waste sites across the U.S.. Germany and the United Kingdom also have forms of a carbon tax.
“These initiatives all have different names, but essentially they are carbon taxes,” says Mr. Sadik. “The fact is – they work. They reduce pollution by ensuring the market reflects the true costs of these emissions on society.”

Polluter-pay initiatives like a carbon tax can be structured so that they don’t single out resource-rich regions of the country. Instead, they can be introduced wherever heat-trapping pollutants are emitted across the country.

“The revenue earned could help reduce the burden of pollution on our public health care system,” says Mr. Sadik. “And it could be used to finance new pollution-reduction technologies.”
Mr. Sadik notes that oil companies in the United States and Europe have still posted record profits, in spite of those jurisdictions having some form of carbon tax.

“There’s no reason why our federal government shouldn’t look at this kind of polluter-pay tool for Canada,” he says.

For more information, contact:
Pierre Sadik

Senior Policy Advisor
David Suzuki Foundation
Ottawa 613-594-5845 Cell: 613-799-8626

If I might save my Conservative commenters the trouble, their argument is as follows:
The Conservative Party of Canada's Communications Department knows something about this that the Suzuki Foundation does not.

I suppose I should extend that preemption to certain Liberal leadership partisans as well.

Monday, June 19, 2006

innocence lost

We now know Bob Rae's "You won't hear a negative peep out of me" had an unspoken addendum ("unless I have a chance to win this thing".)

It was a ridiculous position in the first place. But still...

Friday, June 16, 2006

battling the Blues on all fronts

The CFL kicks off tonight, and you have to love that new season feeling.

Tomorrow, one might spot me at the Rogers Centre, in my Black-and-Gold, teaching Torontonians how to be football fans.

But there is more than just football at stake. Pinball Clemons has been a quiet proponent of John Tory ever since he entered the political game. In fact, Tory wants to press Clemons into service perhaps even as a candidate. His easy smile will play well in the grand "red tory" deception that is to be the 2007 election.

Enter the Ti-Cats. Born of that great steel bastion of social conscience nestled under the mountain, they are not to be deceived by this mock-moderation.

Make no mistake: a victory for the Ti-Cats is a victory for progressive Canada.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

the mileage clicking west

I'm not qualified to evaluate a carbon tax. I frankly don't know how effective/necessary it may be. But I would make this comment: at some point, if we are ever to take environmental sustainability seriously, the oil industry will need to bear a price. That means some regions will be affected more seriously than others. Unfortunate but true. If it makes any feel better, same goes for the auto industry that keeps my city humming.

Prioritizing Liberal electability in the West is fine - but should it be considered a legitimate policy alternative? We just need to be sure that when (if) we are ever elected in Alberta, it is as the party that we want to be.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Canadians for Kelowna - coming soon

Shortly, we will be going live with a new project - Canadians for Kelowna.

The concept is a simple one. We want to try to develop popular involvement in the pursuit of justice for Aboriginal peoples. This has remained a peripheral policy issue, despite what I believe to be a fairly significant popular will. We are going to try to tap into that will. The Kelowna Accord is no silver bullet, but it has given us a single cohesive policy document to rally around.

I hope to launch a website soon, that will accompany an online petition. From there, we can go any number of directions with it. It's to be a non-partisan affair - the issue is too important to play games with, and there are many in all parties who want to see this happen.

I'm posting this heads-up, as I'm really hoping for some support in the blogging community.


- Mike (SCG)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

what Ignatieff meant to say...

My fellow blogger has inspired me to develop one of the ideas found in his previous post.

Consensus seems to be that if Ignatieff falls, it will be on Afghanistan. I don’t know why that is necessarily the case. Given all the academic muscle he has built working through issues of state intervention, war, human rights, etc. Afghanistan looks like a big fat fastball coming right down the middle of the plate. There is no denying, however, that the Saturday debate was a big swing and a big miss.

His defence – that he voted for the mission extension because a soldier died that day – simply made no sense. It sounded like the kind of Conservative rhetoric liberals have rightfully pilloried. Bob Rae was justified in calling it “unfair.” It was an appeal to passion intended for the party of reason. One wonders if it is reflective of bad coaching – because it is a bad misrepresentation of what he actually argues.

It also put those of us who favour his position in a difficult place. I must now explain that I support what he means, but not necessarily what he says. As such, I have taken the liberty of rewriting history. With the help of Ignatieff himself (a selection of quotations from the past, wherein he argues eloquently and persuasively for intervention in the interest of human security), this is how the debate should’ve gone:

I believe passionately in this mission because I believe passionately in our responsibility to defend the liberal values that we cherish for ourselves. I arrived at this belief partially through my travels in Afghanistan, and my encounters with the Taliban.

I began the journey as a liberal, and I end as one, but I cannot help thinking that liberal civilization – the rule of laws, not men, of argument in place of force, of compromise in place of violence – runs deeply against the human grain and is achieved and sustained only by the most unremitting struggle against human nature. The liberal virtues – tolerance, compromise, reason – remain as valuable as ever, but they cannot be preached to those who are mad with fear or mad with vengeance. In any case, preaching always rings hollow. We must be prepared to defend them by force, and the failure of the sated, cosmopolitan nations to do so has left the hungry nations sick with contempt for us (taken from Blood and Belonging).

I was proud of my appointment, by Lloyd Axworthy, to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Our conclusion, sanctioned by the United Nations, was that “The responsibility to protect implies the responsibility not just to prevent and react, but to follow through and rebuild. This means that if military intervention action is taken … there should be a genuine commitment to helping to build a durable peace, and promoting good governance and sustainable development (taken from The Responsibility To Protect).” I believe this, and I believe this is reason to remain in Afghanistan until the job is finished.

BOB RAE: I profoundly disagree. Who are we to export our Western values and call them universal, etc. etc. blah blah stuff that sounds suspiciously like New Democratic Relativist Isolationism. (Yes I also conveniently rewrote Rae, but we all know this is the stuff he loves).

IGGY: Stow it, Rae. The language of human rights is the only universally available moral vernacular that validates the claims of women and children against the oppression they experience in patriarchal and tribal societies (taken from Virtual War)…

[Interrupted by applause]

- Mike (SCG)

Thoughts on the Leadership Debate

The leadership debate on Saturday, which I foolishlely assumed would be a key point in the contest, turned out to be a pretty dissapointing non-event.

First of all, it's all too apparent that with so large a field, meaningful debate is impossible. It looks ridiculous to the public, kills interest (as the field is so large), and further adds to the lack of actual policy discussion. Unfortunately, I don't see an end in sight.

As far as the debate itself there was far too little actually being said. While I appreciated the friendly tone most displayed, I emphatically agree with Stephane Dion's comment that actual details are needed. Nevermind it being a debate, if you are running for the leadership you need to share your ideas. This has gone on for far too long. I agree equalization is a complicated issue, but noting an intergovernmental discussion will be needed, as everyone but Dion did, is not good enough at this stage.

Volpe continued his cheap attacks. On that note, both him and Rae's statements implying Ignatieff's opposition to Kyoto are the kind of misleading attacks that seperate necessary differentiation from negative attack. He has clearly announced his support for Kyoto, and this chosing to voice one interpretation of a statement that has since been so clearly refuted seems an obvious attempt to trick or mislead the audience.

I thought Kennedy gave a fairly strong performance, and spoke well. However, he continues to very little concrete policy proposals.

Nonetheless, looking forward to the next debate in Moncton.


Monday, June 12, 2006

what makes joe volpe a Liberal?

"Within a leadership position, if you're going to support Conservative issues and you're not going to differentiate yourself from the Prime Minister, then you're not going to be in a position to fight for Liberal principles against the Conservative government," says Joe Volpe.

This is drawn from a larger tirade which served a very simple purpose: Attack the next easiest target so that people might forget about you.

This is all very patent. Yet I couldn't help my incredulity when I read this, nonetheless.

On what principles has Volpe constructed his political being?
a) social conservatism
"...marriage cannot be treated like any other invention or program of government. Marriage serves as the basis for social organization; it is not a consequence of it. Marriage signifies a particular relationship among the many unions that individuals freely enter; it's the one between a man and a woman that has two obvious goals: mutual support and procreation of children (barring a medical anomaly or will). No other type of relationship, by definition, can fulfill both goals without the direct or indirect involvement of a third party....for most MPs, marriage remains the cornerstone of society, not some government response to the most recent lobby."
In fairness, when it appeared that this position may damage his professional career, he was quick to abandon it.

He is also routinely listed by Pro-Choice advocacy groups as an anti-abortionist. I can't offer a quotation here, but will only defer to his reputation.

b) fiscal conservatism
Again, with more time I could built a more convincing case. Instead I will suffice with saying he is the only Liberal that has ever told me that "the best social program is a job" (in response to a question about homelessness issues).

So how, then, has he earned his red and white stripes?

He has come to personify the corruption and number fudging that Canadians associate with this party. I could joke about his recent fundraising woes but it is far too easy... a bit like taking candy from a baby.

Not that that's the only tie that binds him to this great institution. This weekend, when referring to Ignatieff as a Republican (is he that stupid or does he just believe we all are), he reminded us all of the heavy-handed fear tactics that have so endeared us to Canadians over the past year.

So when Joe Volpe invokes his "Liberal principles" we ought to be wary.

- Mike (SCG)

Friday, June 09, 2006

what the hell is South Toronto?

Queen's Quay?

I guess he means Etobicoke. Either way, Hostettler has got to stow it.

This is an interesting lesson, though. Perhaps now we can be more understanding when American ears aren't as receptive to Canadian preaching as we would like. Regardless of where right lies (with us), you don't want to be told how to run your show.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Watch Jim Prentice grow increasingly less comfortable with his own reflection

This is remarkable stuff.

October 27, 2005:
Mr. Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre-North, CPC): Mr. Speaker, on August 19 the people of Kashechewan met with the Minister of Indian Affairs and they begged for his help. He did nothing. For eight desperate, squalid weeks, these Canadians were poisoned by E. coli and hepatitis. This minister knew and he slept. This minister cannot be trusted with the lives of those who cannot defend themselves, so on behalf of aboriginal Canadians in our society, who are the poorest of the poor, I ask this minister to resign.

June 2, 2006:
Tories axe deal to move reservation . The people of the Kashechewan First Nation are told to return to desperation and squalor.

What an umitigated disapointment Jim Prentice has been. It's clear that the Bob Izumis at U of Calgary are running his show.


Elsewhere, tonight Ricky Williams learns that he ain't got nothin' on the Ticats linebacker corps. Ahem.

- Mike (SCG)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dion roundtable - Federalism and Quebec

I participated in the conference call held earlier today with Stephane Dion and undecided bloggers. It was a worthwhile event and I was greatful for the opportunity. Due to a lack of time, I'm only going to record my questions and his responses. I assume the others involved will do justice to their own questions.

This post refers to a question I asked Dion regarding federalism. Sometime soon I will follow up with a question I asked him about resolving First Nations land claims.

You've always struck an interesting balance with regards to federalism and management of the federation. The Clarity Act, on one hand, is seen as almost Trudeauvian. SUFA, on the other, is very amenable to the provinces and decentralists. How would the federalism of PM Stephane Dion be unique or distinctive?

The Clarity Act is not a tough law. It is a fair law. It's unfair to accept our country to be broken without the will of the population. It is unfair to remove Canadian citizenship and the right to be Canadian from the Quebec population unless we are sure it's what they want.

It's impossible to succeed in seccession without sufficient consent. Respect for the rule of law was necessary...

I don't know if it makes me a "tough" federalist. It's not the dimension of the problem that I see - I see that it's a fair decision because otherwise we're not respecting the people.

No other Canadians in our history has been Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs longer than I have. 7 years - can you imagine? During these years I've been able to have a strong federal government, strong provincial governments, and after lots of discussions strong agreements betweent the two orders of government.

SUFA (the Social Union Framework Agreement) gives the federal government the capacity to use the federal spending power, which I believe in, but in a way that will help provinces, not in a way that will disturb what they are doing. I think it is a fair balance. We've improved the capacity of both levels of government to work for the provinces.

If Stephane Dion is Prime Minister, the federal government will be stronger in its own jurisdictions. Par example, we will have better immigration policy, better Aboriginal policy - I have ideas about that. In this way we will help provinces in their own jurisdictions. With my three pillars agenda - strong economy, strong environment, strong social justice policies - we will have so many things to do in the federal jurisdiction that we will not have time to enfringe in provincial jurisdiction.

The next blogger asked how Dion would contend with a new referendum. I'll include his response because it flows logically from the above discussion.

You have the easy and wrong path and the more difficult but right path. The easy and wrong solution is to say to the people what we think will please them, hoping they will support us. The more difficult one is to say to them what we think is right and to have an open and frank dialogue and conclude that at the end of the day we will agree.

The wrong way is to say to Quebecers that this federation is too centralized, that the provincial governments need a lot more power, that they need more revenues. This kind of talk may win to you short-term gain but it will lead you nowhere. Because you are reinforcing the separatist myth. If Canada is unfair for Quebec, do you really think that choosing a candidate rather than another one will change anything? People will not believe it...

We need to come with a different dialogue than the one that says, "you are right, you are the victims."

Stephane Dion is saying to his fellow Quebeckers that this federation is already very decentralized. I have ideas to improve it. But above all, I see the big challenges that Quebeckers are facing and they are the same as other Canadians...

- Mike (SCG)

liberal media bias revealed! part deux

Recently, I suggested that the notion of a liberal media bias in Canada is artificially inflated. To corroborate, I posted the results of a study on the issue conducted by researchers at Ryerson's journalism school.

I was quickly reprimanded by my Conservaitve Compatriots, via the comments section and elsewhere in person. They pointed out that though this was an independent study conducted by professionals, though the methodology of the study seemed reasonable, the excerpt I posted had been published in the Toronto Star. Ergo, the study had lost all its legitimacy.

Hoisted by my own petard, eh?

Anyways, I thought we could develop this futher. I noticed that Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun had composed his own interpretation of the study at around the same time. His title- "Liberal bias? It's Not Just the CBC" - suggested a soundly differnt conclusion.

He beings with the deliberately misleading: ...According to a recent study by two Ryerson University journalism professors... Almost half of all Canadian television news directors, the individuals who have the most influence in determining what political news is covered on your favourite nightly newscast and how it is reported, vote Liberal

This seems shocking indeed - particularly at the time of print, when Stephen Harper was poised to challenge for prime ministership.

It is significantly less shocking when we examine the study itself. "Almost half" means 46%. The study was conducted in 2002. This was at a time when most polls suggested Liberal support at around 45%. An easy correlation that suggests journalists in this country are representative of trends generally.

Sorry Lorrie. In an effort to expose liberal media bias you have provided us with a but one example of the breathtaking bias that can go in the other direction.

"But wait," you all cry in consternation, "The Star and Sun have reached different conclusions based on their respective biases. How can you suggest that one is biased and the other is not?"

That would be a fair comment, if the article that appeared in the Star was not written by the professors that conducted the research themselves. The Star allowed for the reseachers to publish their conclusions ("There is no conspiracy, folks. And the numbers so far bear this out."). The Sun allowed a columnist to cite the research as evidence of exactly what the research says isn't true.

Stephen Harper can cry into his beer about the horrible inequities he must face. He and I both know that it just ain't true.

- Mike (SCG)