Steelcitygrit [in exile]

Ruminating on all things Canadian and political.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ignatieff for Leader: A Progressive Choice

This is my official endorsement of Michael Ignatieff.

I apologize for the delay but I felt it necessary to leave my co-blogger's endorsement time to be read. I will say that while I am pointing out the assets of this candidacy, we at Steelcitygrit have been far from dogmatic, and I have never been unquestioning in my support. I have critically assessed Ignatieff since the beginning, and I feel my endorsement is the more credible for it. If I am promotive, it is because I see much to celebrate in this candidacy. As should we all.

While a decision based on intensive research and contemplation, at the core of my support are two key aspects of Ignatieff's candidacy: his socially progressive political vision, and his attachment to a pan-Canadian citizenship based on equal rights. This is a vision of Canada as more than the sum of its parts.

My co-blogger did an excellent overview, and so I will take a somewhat different approach. Consider them complementary.

The argument that I make in favour of Ignatieff, and which I think is emphatically true and yet being lost in this debate, is that his is a progressive vision, on the centre-left of Canadian politics. And far from abandoning this party's history, if you actually look at his platform and his ideas, it is clear that his leadership would be far more of a return to our roots than a departure. His view of Canada has nothing in common with Stephen Harper's, and that many a better qualified commentator than I has misunderstood this does not make them any less incorrect.

It is here that I am breaking with the orthodox interpretation of this race. To that I can only say it is alarming the degree to which this race has been misread. This is not the candidate of the right. Let us look in some depth to prove this.

Ignatieff's platform on the environment is as forceful and forward-thinking as anyone's, if not more so. He is actually attacked for wanting to do too much to address this issue.

In the realm of social policy, where the rubber meets the road in talk of progressivism, Ignatieff has been truly liberal. It is he who brought the term social justice back into vogue in this party. He has also put aboriginal issues at the forefront since the beginning. He speaks of getting over the welfare wall, lessening EI waiting periods, tackling child and rural poverty, as well as a working income tax benefit. Ignatieff demands federal action in affordable housing, and has written about the rights of children more so than most, not to mention backing national child care. His on-record support for same-sex marriage dates back to a time when many even in this party were not on board, some of whom now have the gall to suggest that he's not liberal enough.

In all this he sees an important role for the federal government, suggesting it become the "ultimate guarantor of income security for all Canadians." He argues for increased federal spending where it is needed, while others insist on worrying first about staying out of even shared jurisdictions. This is not a domineering federalism, but it is not a provincialized one either. Ignatieff will defend an effective federal government. And he can do so by pointing out the truth about our federation, that in fact revenues have shifted far in favour of the provinces, and that a further devolution will unnecessarily weaken federal capacities. As he says, "Liberals use revenues to strengthen what we hold in common, while Conservatives cut taxes and weaken the bonds that tie us together."

Ignatieff's regional development policies are inspiring. He speaks of Atlantic and Pacific gateways, and most importantly addresses the de-population of our regions (such as the Maritimes) as a negative development, not an inevitable one. He rejects the prevalent philosophy that we can do nothing, nor should we, to stem an exodus from the regions of this country.

On foreign policy, I will not speak at length about, say Iraq, but note Mike has done so below. I will say that this is not an Achilles’ heel for Ignatieff. It is here that he is perhaps needed most, because the false moral relativism of the new left appears to be dangerously alluring in its simplicity. His ideas here are in the greatest tradition of liberal internationalism while reflecting the reality of the 21st century. We cannot in conscience speak of tragedy in Darfur, or Rwanda, and turn a blind eye to it elsewhere. This is not a license for never-ending intervention, but rather a basic belief that we can be guided by the principle that if we believe in the importance of individual agency (or dignity as agency as he says), and human rights at home, we cannot expect far less abroad. Ignatieff would still, as he says, be very cautious with the use of force. The logical conclusion of Romeo Dallaire's experience in Rwanda, an outcome which I'm sure many self-professed progressives in this party have shaken their head in shame, is Ignatieff's philosophy, and nowhere is that clearer than in Dallaire's endorsement of him.

We are being bombarded with false dichotomies. The Liberal members that opposed the Afghanistan extension, save Bob Rae (who's position is far closer to the NDP's), made it clear at the time that they did so out of disagreement with Harper's tactics, not on principle. To say now as public opinion sways that this was somehow a divide between hawks and doves is dishonest. As to our goals there is also a false divide. This is not an issue of one side saying we need reconstruction and the other (Ignatieff) only military. There is nothing radical in a Kennedy suggesting we must win the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the Afghani people, when Ignatieff has said since the beginning the focus cannot be solely military-based.

On the constitution, I must admit I have not been thrilled with Ignatieff's position and I assure you I have assessed it as critically as anyone. I will also do Ignatieff the respect of not simplifying his position as many of his supporters have done by clamouring to praise every special status movement since the 1960's. This is a post in itself really. Basically, I am hopeful that Peter Newman's point, that Ignatieff is not rejecting Trudeau's vision, but building on it, is correct.

This does not appear to me to be necessarily the antithesis of the Trudeau position. His opposition to the Mulroney constitutional debacles, which was well-founded and so worthy of discussion, was based on several factors. On distinct society he largely feared the nature of it as an interprative clause which may overrule the Charter. While we cannot know Ignatieff's thinking entirely, we do know that he has called for "an affirmation of the supremacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms..." Trudeau feared not just the symbolism of constitutional amendment but the content, particularly the intensively devolutionary bent of these documents. Ignatieff has stated outright that this is not his goal, that Quebec possesses the powers it requires already, and with regards to the other provinces that the federal government cannot be further weakened.

Another enormous problem with Meech and Charlottetown was the federal government's abdicating of its role. They bargained for nothing in return. Ignatieff has listed several requirements right at the outset, including constitutional recognition of the federal spending power, federal role in national citizenship, constitutional bilingualism, the charter provision, and a strengthened national economic union (ie. reduced barriers to internal trade, literally an example given by Trudeau as what should have been sought by Mulroney).

I think there is merit to saying that this should not be opened, and the fact that others have since started arguing for this process to achieve aims opposite Ignatieff's intentions proves he may not be able to control the agenda. I don't think that is alarmist or defeatist. However, I have tried to show that Ignatieff's vision seems reconcilable with this strain. Elsewhere, Dion is at heart a decentralist in an already decentralized federation. It is well and good to strongly say you will leave the issue alone, but he will not strengthen Canadian citizenship in the process. And with Bob Rae, who despite as recently as August suggesting constitutional change, is now saying he will leave it alone, we are not given a superior option. He has simply said he will deal with each issue one at a time. So with him we would likely face the devolution of Charlottetown , and the dangers to a national citizenship of opening this can of worms, without the advantages of Ignatieff's position. Rae is not offering a way out of this dilemma. A piece by piece constitutional mess is no panacea.

Politically, I strongly believe it is with Ignatieff that we have the greatest chance of forming a government in the next election, and stopping a Conservative reign that cares little for the traditional conception of the social fabric of this country.

Of course I would prefer he had more direct political experience, as would he I'm sure, though I am quick to point to Trudeau, a veritable outsider. To this we are told, "ah but he had 3 or so years in government" (Ignatieff will have around one by convention time but I digress), and apparently that makes all the difference.

To that I am compelled to ask, had there been a leadership race in 1965 should Trudeau not have run? Would we be better off as a country having passed on him? Did his experience so greatly contribute to his subsequent years in power as to make his time unworkable without them? I hardly think so. Lack of "experience" (a lifetime dedicated to reporting on, and participating in global political issues counts for quite a bit in my book) may be a problem, but does it nullify everything else? I think not.

Bob Rae speaks of winning, and uniting the team, over the importance of ideas. Ignatieff obviously has ideas in spades. And as far as uniting the team, as a precursor to winning, it should be noted that Ignatieff has the majority of support in caucus by quite a bit. These people are LITERALLY the team that are somehow more likely to unite behind Rae, unbeknown to them I suppose. Why chose ideas or electability when you can have both?

Ignatieff's candidacy does not ask of us to abandon idealism in the face of political pragmatism. I give no quarter to any suggestion otherwise, with Ignatieff I honestly feel I am able to do both.

He presents us with a leader who has the potential to ensure what seems very fragile at this point, the indivisibility of Canadian citizenship. This means the opportunity not to face great disparities dependent on where we choose to live, and an improved standard of living for all Canadians. This vision does not quash regional identities, but rather ensures that on a fundamental level, we share in a truly national experience. It is here that Ignatieff's greatest potential lies, and it is this for which he needs our support.

Let us be bold.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mike endorses Michael before it is too late

What follows is a (very) lengthy account of how I came to declare as an Ignatieff delegate. I don’t see the utility in simply telling you that he’s my guy. It’s more constructive to outline my thinking specifically. I hope it compelling that I have explored some of the same questions and doubts that his detractors have, so deeply that at times I ceased calling myself an Ignatieff supporter, but have emerged more excited by his leadership than I have been in my short political life. If this endorsement seems strangely late, it is because I’ve taken this decision very seriously. I’ve been critical of Michael when I felt it warranted, as well as congratulatory of the others. I wanted to be sure, and I am.

This is the opinion of only one steelcitygrit blogger. I'll leave Steve to offer his own endorsement.

As always, I will explore policy first.

Firstly, foreign policy (although I’d rather that it takes a back seat in this contest to social policy, etc. it hasn’t – so I will play the cards I’ve been dealt). Here I am unequivocal. Ignatieff stands to save the liberal Left. He did a remarkable thing before entering politics, when he broke with the ironclad academic paradigm. He was wrong about Iraq – really bad intentions can’t produce good ends. But he is right elsewhere. Let us stow that most basic of polemic fallacies – guilt by association – and examine the content of his philosophy. He argues that the liberals have always stood to uphold some basic commitments. This is the nature of constitutionalism; this is the nature of domestic social justice. What, then, is inherently left-wing about this newfound relativism that now runs our show? We fight so bitterly for these moral truths at. Why do we abandon them across political borders? The NDP position, which some leadership candidates seem unwilling to distance themselves from, is a sort of isolationism that Canada has never known. By removing ourselves from Afghanistan (no, this is not expressly the position of any Liberal leader, but some have left that door open) we are creating a precedent under which we must sit out the Darfur expedition. It is real politik position, in a strange way. The suggestion is that it would be nice to help the Afghan people, but it’s too hard so we won’t. When has this ever been a leftwing position? Blood and Belonging, Virtual War, and numerous other Ignatieff pieces explain with crystal clarity and impeccable execution why intervention is at times a moral necessity. In breaking with the nouveau Left, Ignatieff has kept faith with Canadian foreign policy of the past.

Other candidates have contented themselves with lobbying open-ended questions. Are we winning the hearts and minds of Afghanis? Is the mission unbalanced? These are important questions all. But a leader needs to answer questions, as well as ask them. Ignatieff has called for a renewal of diplomacy and reconstruction efforts, along with all the others. He has projected the right message: if this is a good mission done badly, let’s do it right. But we can be adamant in our support.

Elsewhere, he has called for Canada to meet Pearson’s benchmark by dedicating .7% of our GDP to foreign aid. Also, he has shown an understanding of the effects agricultural subsidies at home can have on farmers in the developing world. Why this hasn’t been picked up, I don’t know. But it is an important message.

Finally, on the domestic end of security, he has called for the abolishment of security certificates. Said certificates are an absolute stain on our party’s reputation. Ignatieff, by virtue of his absence, has the credibility to undo that legislative mistake.

On to environmental policy. Here my thinking has evolved in recent months. Where not long ago I would’ve regarded it as less than decisive, I’m one of the many that are beginning to feel that this must be THE issue. That is nearly impossible deny on any rational grounds. Ignatieff’s platform is gutsiest, in a way that the other candidates don’t even try to deny. Instead they warn us of the political fallout that is to result. Firstly, if we are today to prioritize politics over effective environmental policy – as is explicitly suggested by most other candidates – then we shouldn’t be able to look at ourselves in the mirror. The carrot isn’t going to get us there; the stick needs to come into play. Everybody recognizes this. If we don’t carry it out, it’s cowardice. Nothing more. Secondly, there is reason to believe we are approaching a watershed in public opinion regarding environmental policy. How else can one explain the massive commercial success of an Al Gore powerpoint presentation? Canadians are genuinely embarrassed that the Conservative party is abandoning Kyoto. But they don’t see the Liberal party as an alternative, and what reason have we given them to do so? Do not underestimate the Canadian people. Many are willing to bear short term pain, in order that life on Earth can be brought back from the precipice. Ignatieff’s platform asks this of Canadians. No one else is willing to engage the public in the same dramatic fashion.

Quebec. Here has Ignatieff caused me to suffer most. My support was shaken soundly during the “nation” debate, and nearly scuppered during the constitutional debate. Ultimately, I will continue to question and oppose what I have seen so far. But there is nuance in Ignatieff’s position that has been largely missed. Having searched his words and writings over time as carefully as I have, I feel confident that I am not acting as an apologist. I will always contest that word “Nation” when it is applied to the province of Quebec in its entirety. However, the “civic nation” label that Ignatieff uses is of some comfort – despite the way it has been interpreted by some. It, alongside his same-breath recognition of our Indigenous First Nations, suggests an understanding of the multinational and multiethnic nature of Quebec as well as Canada. He doesn’t engage in the sort of “two solitudes” mythologizing that we see with others – even if his supporters do. Ultimately I regard his position with reference to his competition. Rae is famous for his fervent and vitriolic opposition to Trudeauvian federalism. Dion is one of the most successful devolutionists in Liberal federal history, and did everything he could as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to give us an extra-constitutional Meech. In this company, to call Michael a decentralist is disingenuous. “Nation” recognition or not, he will protect federal jurisdiction in a way it hasn’t been protected for two decades. There is also a vein of liberal individualism that runs through his vision. This is something that this blog will develop sometime soon.

Social policy is the forgotten domain in this leadership contest. It’s unfortunate, as many candidates – Kennedy and Dryden particularly - have been ambitious and offered innovation. Once again though, Ignatieff has stood out. He will reengineer child care support so that it is once again means-tested. He will consolidate student aid programs so that the federal government can take a direct hand in post-secondary education that cannot be interfered with. He will offer tax relief to lowest-income brackets. He will extend EI benefits to mothers and fathers This is good stuff – practical but effective.

Michael has written with insight on the issues facing our Indigenous populations. He describes Aboriginal self-government appropriately as a nation-building exercise. He has been eloquent in his defense of the Kelowna Accord. A complete Aboriginal policy platform is not yet available, but we have reason to believe that this is an issue Ignatieff will prioritize. He has intimated a desire to topple the Indian Act altogether. This should be an absolute requirement for our new leader.

Finally, the superficial stuff – electability, leadership qualities, etc. I think sometimes lost in all of this is just how remarkable it would be to claim as our head of state an internationally-regarded scholar, a critically acclaimed writer. Imagine sending to the U.S. or U.K. a leader that is already recognized as a brilliant man and a personality. Here the Trudeau comparison is undeniable. Project 30 years in the future, and I can imagine my contemporaries recalling that “love him or hate him, you were proud to call him your own.” What other candidate promises that much? In truth, Trudeau had nothing like the international renown that Ignatieff has, at least at the outset of his political career. This is an opportunity for Canada, singular in history.

Does he have political strikes against him? Undeniably. But the worst mistake we can make as a party is settling for the guy with the least immediate downsides. We tried that with Paul Martin and it didn’t work, and that was at a time when it seemed we couldn’t lose. That was at a time when we didn’t need to win debates, when we didn’t need to advance ambitious policy, because we were nearly unopposed. Now the Liberal party needs to strike a dramatic chord, to demonstrate in loud tones why we are something new. The ability to capture imaginations, to garner headlines cannot be underrated.

Will the other parties try to pillory Ignatieff for his time outside of Canada, etc? Of course. But Canadians react against this sort of unsophisticated, ad hominem campaigning. We bore painful witness to it ourselves this past election. Once again, we mustn’t sell Canadians short.

Would it be preferable if Michael had the opportunity to spend two years in cabinet, or at least in the House? Certainly – and he will tell you the same without hesitation. But as he rightly notes, politics operates by its own calendar, its own clock. And shortly its bells will sound. Michael Ignatieff’s time will have come.

- Mike (SCG)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

RIP Court Challenges Program

[If this post seems particularly formal, it is because I stumbled ass-backwards into a weekly politics column at McMaster's The Silhouette. My pieces appear complete with a vaccuous, mouth-breather headshot and everything. I'm nestled in amongst all the "what's the deal with facebook?" type columns. It's embarassing. Anyways, this is installment 3.]

Consider it a formal introduction. Stephen Harper reminded Canadians what conservatism in government truly means on Monday, with the announcement of spending cuts across the board. Treasury Board President John Baird exhumed a tried and tested cliché not heard since Mulroney’s 80s: “We are trimming the fat and refocusing spending on the priorities of Canadians.”

Baird assures us that the cuts were done strategically; the programs that suffered were those that generated little returns. A closer examination will find that half of that is true. These cuts were strategic indeed. One stands out particularly – one that speaks volumes about this government’s true agenda.

On Monday, Stephen Harper quietly engineered the elimination of the Court Challenges program. What is Court Challenges? It is – was – an arms-length institution that provided financial backing for rights claims. Essentially, through this program the government funded disadvantaged groups to challenge it on rights issues.

The program was introduced in 1978. At that time, it was intended to protect minority language rights exclusively. Later, it was expanded, so that it applied to all equality rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It’s been an essential tool in many landmark equality cases. Certainly, without Court Challenges we would not yet have same-sex marriage. It provided considerable support to the gay rights organization EGALE. Its subsidies allowed EGALE to manage massive legal costs while pursuing its equality claims in court. The eventual result was a Supreme Court decision that the current definition of marriage was unconstitutional.

Aboriginal groups, too, have relied heavily on the program. Land claims, residential schools reparations, racist legislation: First Nations have an endless need to access the court system. However, endemic poverty makes this extraordinarily difficult. Without financial aid, pursuing Charter rights is simply impossible.

It’s no wonder that far-right organizations have called for the disbandment of the program. Theirs is not a concern for fiscal responsibility. Gwen Landoldt, vice-President of the anti-gay, anti-abortion REAL Woman of Canada makes her point with gusto:

“You have homosexual and radical feminist activists doling out funds to their own activist organizations without the slightest public accountability

Iain Benson, a lawyer that often represents the religious Right, says the program was susceptible to “…blatant favourtism… It’s the politically correct groups that get the funding.”

The program would not generate such vitriol if it had not been successful in bringing about equality rulings. We begin to read new meaning in Harper’s decision. It is presented as a cost saving measure – the lesser of the conservative evils, as it were. But it underscores a far more odious design.

Harper’s aversion to minority and Charter Rights is no secret. He has mused publicly about invoking the notwithstanding clause – so that he might override rights in, say, repealing same-sex marriage. Here is a far simpler, softer option. There is considerable political capital at stake when a prime minister engages the constitution in open battle, after all. Harper intends, instead, to use the back door. If Canadians are unable to access the Charter, via the courts, then it is rendered effectively toothless. Where previous governments paved a road from the disadvantaged to their Charter justice, Harper is now tearing up the tarmac.

The Conservative defence is not as reassuring as it intends to be. Baird argues that “…if the government thinks that laws are unconstitutional, it should change them. They shouldn’t be providing subsidies to lawyers to do their work for them.” He would have the legislators solely responsible for challenging the laws that they themselves pass. This begs the question that why would a government pass laws if it deemed them to be unconstitutional?

The message, at simplest, is “just trust us.” Are we to heed this advice? Are we to bow our heads in deference, content that our government will look after all of us all the time? This defies the very purpose of having a constitution. Our Charter was enacted so that all citizens would be able to challenge their government and could not be ignored. This is an ability we should protect zealously.

There is more afoot in Ottawa then the mere pinching of pennies.

- Mike (SCG)

Monday, September 25, 2006

keep wackos out of Caledonia

A planned rally on Six Nations land currently held by the provincial government is causing tremdous concern amongst both Six Nations and Caledonian residents. The organizers: co-founders of the organization "Caledonia Wake Up Call". That is Mr and Mrs McHale, a couple from... Richmond Hill?

What exactly is their cause? A sish to bring stability back to their home community? Well, no. They live north of Toronto. Do they wish to bring an end to the various road blocks, etc that threaten economic viability in Caledonia. Well, no. Those have been disassembled already. Perhaps they feel the Six Nations need to be removed so that development at Douglas Creek can continue. Well, no. The provincial government has purchased the disputed land in full, and is now in the process of transferring title to Six Nations.

So what drives this computer programmer - from Richmond Hill - and his wife to go to such lengths, in organizing their "March For Freedom"? Hmmm...

I won't link to Caledonia Wake Up Call's website, because I have no interest in generating any traffic in that direction. I will provide some highlights, so that we might build a profile.

Otop the page is a dramatic bar, bearing - inexplicably - the seal of the American Department of Homeland Security. "For Our American Viewers", the McHales have provided today's Terrorist Threat Advisory. Thougthful. This makes more sense when we discover, further down the page, that they have contacted that same Department about "Native Homegrown Terrorism" at Caledonia. The letter provides our first insight into the minds behind the rally. (It's unclear who the author is but he seems intimately linked with the "March For Freedom") Passionate, yes - if not John Locke:
"As you are no doubt already aware... [the protesters] are not exactly sunday school teachers."
It continues to list a laundry list of infractions on the part of the above:
"[They] threw officers out of a police car Grand Theft Auto Style... [They are] playing loud music... etc. Sounds like these events could be happening in Iraq or Afghanistan, doesn't it?"

Further down the webpage, they call for the OPP to be disbanded. Why? Because "they defy our democratic system, they overlook murder", etc. etc.

Elsewhere, in a distinctly freudian moment, they superimpose a KKK hood over the head of a Six Nations protester.

There are numerous allegations that this reclamation was "NEVER ABOUT LAND CLAIMS" but about a casino (of course). Etc., etc., etc.

I could dig up more but there is no need. Obviously these are irrational people, obviously there is no reason at play and only hatred. And there will always be people like this existing on the periphery. So why write this post, why give them a moment's thought? A couple reasons:

a) This organization is not the citizens of Caledonia. This organization is profoundly more dangerous, and offers a considerably greater potential for massive escalation. They cannnot be allowed to interlope as they would.

b) Why has Toby Barrett, MPP for Haldidmand-Norfolk-Brant, agreed to appear as guest speaker at the "March For Freedom"?

Toby Barrett: John Tory's "moderate" posse rides again

Thursday, September 21, 2006

clearing up the Rae debate

I'm willing to get past this donations issue soon, but first the slavish apologists require a response. This is not an issue of loyalty, or party fealty. Not at all. This is a values issue, in a practical sense.

In both the '06 and '04 elections, I chose the Liberal option. I didn't do it out of instinctual adherence to the Red and White. I didn't do it because I was auditioning for a job. I did it on principle because I believed it the party most capable of governing.

Bob Rae chose the NDP option. We can assume he did so on principle; he's a principled man. The NDP was closer to his political vision a few months ago then was the Liberal Party. That puts us fundamentally at odds.

It makes no sense not to take that into account.

- Mike (SCG)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bob Rae running in the wrong crowds?

I have trouble taking the Bob Rae donation allegations lightly. I have particular trouble after learning that one of the NDP campaigns he alledgedly donated to was London-Fanshawe. This riding , where Liberal Glen Pearson lost to NDP Irene Mathyssen, was personally one of my biggest disapointments of the 'o6 election.

From May 10/2006:

Glen Pearson - if I may sidetrack for a moment - is one of the great living Liberals. His CV includes serving as a firefighter for 28 years, founding the London Food Bank, consulting with all levels of government on poverty issues, and founding the organization Canadian Aid for Southern Sudan. Pearson travelled often to the Sudan. He build a YM/YWCA nearbye and was personally involved in freeing slaves - one of which he adopted as a daughter. He was defeated in London-Fanshawe by New Democrat Irene Mathyssen, whose CV includes 'good at being po-mo cynical about stuff' (paraphrased).

Glen Pearson is someone who makes you proud to be a Liberal. In my mind, this particular riding campaign was a microcosmic reinforcement of why I am a Liberal and not a New Democrat. And Rae - already noted at this point as a potential future Liberal leader - was there, bailing out his old friend Irene?

Is it unreasonable to cry foul? I can't usually be accused of demanding party loyalty too rigorously.

I'm willing to assume innocence, but this story should not go away until Rae indicates that this is a mistake.

- Mike (SCG)

UPDATE: Revisit the personal introduction that appears on Bob Rae's website:
I am a Liberal because I believe the Liberal Party represents Canada at its best: diverse, innovative, fundamentally decent.
Doesn't it grit your teeth just a little bit?

Monday, September 18, 2006

New Brunswick goes home again

Congratulations to Shawn Graham and the Liberal Party of New Brunswick for winning the premiership in a place very close to my heart. Bouctouche has given us a premier now, and perhaps another sort of leader down the selfish neo-conservatism that Lord had brought to New Brunswick and that still reigns in Ottawa. One down. Will we see a Liberal tide like in the 1960's? We can only hope.

Also, I see that David McGuinty has endorsed Michael Ignatieff. He is a strong MP, intelligent and articulate, and I've always been a fan. Not sure why this deserves blogging mention and not the enormous Romeo Dallaire endorsement (which seems to have been lost in the summer heat), but oh well.

By the way, did anyone else notice Ken Dryden finally shatter that woodenness on Sunday? His rant about Harper was outstanding. You can say all you want about how it was targeted for that effect, etc., but what's undeniable was the assurance with which he spoke. Good on 'ya Ken. Ignatieff seemed to enjoy it too.


Dion and land claims

Bits and pieces:

- I thought Stepane Dion was terrific on the Kelowna Accord question. He managed to take a fairly substance-less issue (only because all candidates are united in their support of the Kelowna Accord) and advance some very important ideas. He spoke of transferring land claims from the federal government to an independent body. This is necessary and long overdue. He also spoke of First Nations being able to self-govern outside of the Indian Act. These two ideas shouldn't become lost in the fray, and both seemed to have a significant thought process behind them.

I was taken by surprise. When I asked Dion about these two issues specifically some months ago, his response was very different. At that time, he didn't seem to see any need to re-evaluate our land claims proceedings, and he warned against self-government creating "provinces of 90 people." I'm glad to see he has made some revisions.

- If he wasn't so conservative, I'd fight and die for Scott Brison. If he ever abandons his business conscious ways I will belong to him. The East needs to produce more candidates.

- I heard Gerard Kennedy speaking again about his 'distinct' position on Afghanistan ["We should leave Afghanistan if we can't get a mandate that does honour and respect to the people of Afghanistan and to our troops."]. I frankly don't get it. If we (the Liberal Party) were in a position to pull our troops, then would we not also be in a position to revise the mission? We lead the NATO deployment. Isn't the mission whatever we say it is? If so, then let us not pander to the fashionistas. If it is a good mission done badly, then let's do it right. I don't know why that can't be our message.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mini MI

Every debate, Gerard Kennedy speaks faster and louder. I do like his emphasis on respect for people, however. Now there is real renewal.

"We won't just have aspirations - we'll actually be able to get them done!" He calls it "enterprise". What resonance! Magnifique.

I had a dream that I carried a 4-inch tall Michael Ignatieff around in my coat pocket. When I faced a decision, I'd pull him out and he would advise me. He was kind of sarcastic. What does that mean?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Canada's unsated constitutional needs

I decided to sit down and list all the possible ways that we could alter our constitutional arrangement. Since the language of "need" is used often of late, I refined my list further. Any alteration that is not necessary was crossed off. I then divided the necessary into short-term and long-term needs. Here is the result:

Long-term Constitional Needs:

1. The elimination of the Notwithstanding Clause, so that entrenched rights are sheltered from majoritarianism, tribal assertions, etc.

Short-term Constitional Needs:



Monday, September 11, 2006

'A fool for five minutes': Questions for Iggy RE:constitution

Today I had intended on posting a detailed and forceful endorsement of Michael Ignatieff. After yesterday's developments and a lengthy conversation with my coblogger, I agreed that before I do that I must in good conscience ask a few questions. They are fairly straight-forward; I look forward to a quick response.

- How can Quebec be recognized as a distinct constitutional entity without eroding massively the supremacy of the Charter?

- How can Quebec be recognized as a distinct constitutional entity without initating a further devolution of governmental capacity?

- If we can maintain the preeminence of the Charter and the place of the Federal government, what are we offering Quebec in return for its assent to the Constitution?

- If the French Canadian Nation in Quebec is recognized legally, how can we guarantee the other nations and ethnicities in Quebec equal participation and recognition?

- How can we maintain and protect the Franco minority outside of Quebec, if the province is to become the French "Homeland".

- Why now?

- Mike (SCG)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Disquiet on the Left

[Back now from the Great White North - no internet hooked up so my posts will still be slow in coming]

From my new home high above downtown Hamilton, I have a particularly compelling view of the Great New Democratic self-destruction. Here in Hamilton Centre campaign season never ends for the NDP. The Christopherson/Layton mustache is worn proudly at every street festival, etc. This is distincly less irritating this year, as their orange and green is almost overpowered by the bright red in their cheeks.

I loitered beside an NDP display table at a street festival today, and observed the bloodletting. The workers explained with less than their usual aplomb how the they're still interested in results for people - just Canadian people and no one else. Or how they don't think that Canadian soldiers want to be terrorists, but are manipulated by their American counterparts. Or how we oughtn't concern ourselves with recent cuts to social spending because there are 10 more New Democrats in we should sit tight.

Here in what is lately an NDP bastion, they are on the defensive in a way that I have never seen before. Is it dawning on Canadians just how unprincipled and thoroughly political Jack's gang have become? Is it because the party is steadily advancing an isolationist foreign policy that has no precedence in 80 years? Either way it may make for the most interesting election dynamic next go-around.

- Mike (SCG)