Thursday, July 16, 2009

23 is the crassest number

Here’s a hypothetical: Imagine the next time you open your door, a neighborhood kid is there to ask you for money. You’ve seen him before and given before. Only this time there are no candy bars, no magazine subscriptions or even a chance to win a 50/50 draw.

The kid with the weird grin doesn’t know what the school will do with the money. He doesn’t know if it’s to fight a disease or to get a 108 inch flat screen for the teachers’ lounge.

He doesn’t care about that. This isn’t about you or some problem in the world that might need some attention -- it’s about him!

He HAS to win, he exclaims. He has to do better than all the other kids so he can get the awards and get the recognition! And he’s counting on you caring enough about that – about his ego and his bragging rights. So fork it over!

That kid at your door is the summer fundraising pitch from the Liberal Party. It is the crassest of all appeals: “give us cash so we can make our guy the 23rd prime minister in an election we have successfully avoided by propping up Harper over two-dozen times since the last election.”

Compare that to the New Democrats’ Blueprint for Change. It’s a lot easier to move people to donate to something they care about. New Democrats clearly get that. The NDP effort this summer is based on VALUES … getting action on your values, on delivering for everyday people being left behind in the recession.

The letter from party president Anne McGrath talks about the tangible benefits people can count on in the coming weeks when they make a donation to the NDP ... not just Michael Ignatieff's vanity project.

"you’ll help us build the biggest New Democrat campaign in history. This summer, we’ll train more campaign workers and engage more volunteers than ever. And at our Convention in Halifax, we’ll learn from winning New Democrats like Premier Gary Doer and Premier Darrell Dexter as well as key members of Barack Obama’s inner-circle, eager to lend a hand to those standing up for working families."

You heard it from Rocco: “Summer is no time to rest. As the Liberal Party's National Director, I know an election can come at any moment. That's why on July 23, I'll be launching our 'Up the Creek WITH a Paddle' fundraising expedition.”

Wha? Thanks anyway Rocco. We’ll wait for the kid with the chocolate almonds.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Harper v. Ignatieff: The fight for who has the better conservative ideas

At first they won’t admit it. But over time – and usually over drinks – Ottawa Liberals are starting to confess a deep concern that their current leader may be their most right of centre yet -- and that this will have a very real consequence in the next election.

His cosmopolitan and intellectual aura aside, on the environment, the Iraq war, violence as a means to an end and on things ordinary people actualy care about, Ignatieff's opinions are almost indistinguishable from Harper's. New Democrats have already begun to seize on the homogenization with this biting commentary.

Contextually this makes sense. The Liberal Party has been inexorably drifting to the right over the past 25 years. The Chretien-Martin era marked new low point for progressives. The governing Liberals slashed $25 billion from health and education and downloaded it to the provinces, they eliminated the federal role in social housing, they gave tens of billions worth of incentives to the oil and gas sector, they put us into a war in Kandahar without a clear mission, and they pushed through a reactionary anti-terror bill, complete with draconian security certificates. So, it is almost a given that whomever leads them now should necessarily be more individualistic, more laissez faire, more hawkish and less committed to basic notions of fairness than the one previous. Ignatieff fills the bill, and then some.

Another measure is this: the Liberal Party of Trudeau and Pearson was home to some of the most out-spoken, risk-taking progressives of their era -- like Tom Kent, Allan MacEachen, Warren Allmand, Paul Martin Sr., Monique Begin, and Pauline Jewett.

Yet where are these people in today’s Liberal Party? They aren’t there; or if they are there, they are so timid and neutered in a party that equates hacking away at health and education as providing tax “relief” that “social justice” is spoken of with the same mindless monotony as an advertising jingle.

None of this is to say that recent Liberals have not done or promised progressive things. It is just that on balance, the party is far more to the right than it’s ever been. The result is that given the choice of taking a decision favourable to Conservatives or New Democrats, one could safely predict today's Liberals would take the former.

In the desperate days of the 2004 election Paul Martin threw long and declared that Liberals and New Democrats “share the same values”. The snicker-worthy intonation being that if Liberals weren’t Liberals they would be New Democrats.

The move won him votes, but it also won Liberals much more scrutiny of their record by centre left Canadians.

Given the choice of an Ignatieff-led Liberal Party – a party that a month ago agreed to prop up the Conservatives for a 79th time in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to collaborate with Pierre Poilievre on a private members bill – or the New Democrats who are showing in Manitoba and Nova Scotia that progressive parties can govern with their values in 2009, it’s a good bet progressive Canadians will be attracted to the more hopeful choice.

The scrap over who has the better conservative ideas will be fought out by these two men.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Dead Chamber: providing over 142 years of embarassment ...

Oh, it was embarrassing LONG before this. (for a complete list of Senate embarrassments, visit here, courtesy of the NDP).

But thanks Senators, for using words like "embarrassment" and "childish" to describe what goes on in the unelected, undemocratic sandbox you reluctantly attend for 3 or 4 days a week for a tidy $130,000 a year.

Every Prime Minister - Conservative and Liberal - from Sir John A., to Trudeau to Harper have added to the democratic deficit (hey, remember that?) by rejecting change and preferring to let the Senate be. So that today we Canadians are saddled with a $95 million a year embarrassment of Liberal and Conservative Senators patting each other on the back - when they aren’t storing their knives there - and self-important appointees masquerading as legitimate legislators at the public's expense.

During December's crisis, Harper accused other parties of having an undemocratic agenda -- days before he plumped the Dead Chamber with 18 more Conservative has-beens and hangers-on. Deciet, make way for hypocrisy!

For longer than they have been new, the New Democrats have had this right: there is only one solution to the Senate: Let’s get RID of it.