Friday, February 29, 2008

Columnist endorses Jack's campaign to take on Harper

If the cold air rushing up your nostrils stung just a bit more than usual this morning, it's because hell may have finally frozen over.

The top indicator: perennial talk radio vocalist Michael Harris used his weekly Sun column to give a boost to Jack Layton’s NDP, including – the stunning confession for the Sun - that the NDP “didn't ruin their provinces by winning” government.

“Who says [the Liberals] are the only government in waiting? There has been another party around since 1961 that has never been trusted to be the government of this country or even the Opposition, though in 1988 the NDP did win 43 seats. My proposal is this: Those hordes of urban voters who just can't stand the Conservatives should try a new option -- the NDP.”

Now those folks who build ball caps out of chicken wire and Reynolds Wrap will say that Harris is trying to help Harper by splitting the left-wing vote. Try again. Any real Machiavellian favoring the status-quo would consent through silence, or offer congratulations for the “moderation” Liberals are showing by rolling over to keep Harper in 24 Sussex.

Instead, Harris, like others, is coming to appreciate that our system only works when the official opposition has the honesty and guts to play for all the marbles – which the Liberals haven’t since their electoral defeat in 2006.

Jack Layton should be seen as a prime-minister-in-waiting not because Dion isn’t convincing as one, or because the Liberals have failed in opposition, or because the NDP will be matching the Conservatives dollar for dollar in the next campaign, or even because one or 201 columnists say so. Canadians will have a choice between Layton and Harper because the former has shown himself every bit as principled and honest a leader as this country has seen.

And that's the kind of change this country needs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1-2-3-4 … Dion for the count

Anyone who hasn’t read Aaron Wherry’s blog on the Maclean’s site has been missing out on some of the sharpest coverage of Ottawa. His latest post here describes in excruciating detail the blow-by-collapse-motionless-on-the-canvas of Dion’s pathetic and desperate (albeit mercifully short) climb down of yesterday.

Wherry’s clever turn of phrase paints the embarrassing pathos of Dion's spectacle just so:

This did not, at first, sound like a man ready to once more capitulate. Sure, all conventional wisdom and off-the-record rumour had the opposition willing to let the budget slide, but perhaps something had changed. Perhaps Mr. Dion had consulted his own beloved canine companion and come away realizing his time was now.

"At least in the direction that the government accomplishes, it is going broadly in the direction that we recommended, especially in the last months. For example, more investment in infrastructure. More investment for the auto sector, for public transit. The gas transfer for municipalities becomes permanent. And more police officers."

Oh, never mind.

"Under the circumstances, I don't see enough in this budget..."

But wait, hold on.

"... that would justify..."

Propping up this government?

" ... that we precipitate an election that Canadians do not want."


"For now. We see by circumstance."

Of course.

"For the exact process that we will follow in the House, I will discuss it with my colleagues in the caucus," Dion concluded. "Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much."

One intrepid reporter dared a question, but the back of Dion's head had no response.

While some bloggers like Wherry are finding the humour in this latest surrender to Harper's agenda, others are finding the reason to distance themselves from the Dion Liberal pack.

In a gesture to be admired for its honesty, BCer in Toronto has had enough.

And in a gesture to be admired for its courage, former Liberal MP Francoise Boivin shows leadership for fed-up Liberals by joining Jack Layton’s campaign against Harper.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Liberals to allow Harper's agenda to continue

Today's budget laid bare the next steps of the Harper agenda:

Not one new childcare space.
Nothing to make prescription drugs more affordable.
Nothing for forestry communities.
A pitance for manufacturing.
Six dollars in tax cuts for profitable companies for every dollar to help people.

The response of Jack Layton and the NDP: No way.
The response of the official opposition Liberals: Sure thing. Harper's agenda is our agenda too!

Liberals say they can vote for the budget because of all the things it does that they agree upon. In short: the Harper agenda is their agenda. Liberals are acknowledging that on the major issues of the day, the war and the economy, there is virtually no light between Dion and Harper.

So what is the point of the 90-ish people sitting in a caucus collecting cheques and calling themselves "Liberals"?

This long-overdue question is starting to be asked by observers like the Toronto Star's Jim Travers on the Newman show today:

"How do they [the Liberals] make themselves relevant in the near future? This government might now last until the fall -- might last until October 2009 to the fixed election date. And basically they have endorsed the Conservatives' management of Afghanistan, and the Conservative management of the budget. So that doesn't give St├ęphane Dion very much room to build an image, and a lot of people also asking inside the party, well, 14 months after you were elected leader were you not ready to go for an election when you had an minority government?"

Two years after the election, Conservatives have never had it this good, and never imagined they would.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NOW Mag dumps "strategic voting" -- NDP is the real opposition to Harper

It was only a few months ago that Alice Klein inadvertently invited progressives to declare war on her inbox by trotting out the old moonshine of "strategic voting".

Toronto's NOW Magazine’s editor in chief called on her readers to align behind Dion's Liberals the next time they headed to the polls. And while the repetition of their key anti-NDP message was heralded by Liberal apparatchiks, NOW's readers were somewhat less impressed.

Fast forward to today to read NOW’s new position on strategic voting in light of the Liberals’ about-face on Afghanistan:

"Can we officially lay to rest the progressive pondering of a strategic voting alliance between Liberals, NDPers and other small-l liberals? ... Because this week the difference between Canada’s social democratic NDP and the old-school Liberals and the Conservatives just got blindingly clearer."

The accompanying illustration (above) shows Dion and Harper brothers in arms, while the article makes the point finer, characterizing the Liberal Party as "sad junkies" for power and "a death-dealing party."

NOW’s message is refreshingly clear and simple: those who say "vote Liberal to stop Harper" are "fear mongering" and deliberately deluding themselves and others:

"I’d rather support a party that doesn’t make excuses for killing. Backing Liberals because they are alleged to be more palatable than the Tories leads to an endless ream of rationalizations, a constant collection of claimed compromise that always ends in broken promises and the postponement of big dreams.

Why should we sell ourselves and our hopes short because of fear-mongers who would claim that Dion’s shape-shifting Liberals are more electable than the NDP?"

Good question.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Former Liberal MP dumps her party: Considers running with Layton's NDP

It will come as a surprise to English readers (as well Liberal MP Marcel Proulx it would appear) that the latest bombshell to hit political Ottawa is the speculation that Francoise Boivin may run for the NDP in the next federal election.

The former Liberal MP for Gatineau and chair of the women's caucus has given up on her old party and is speaking very positively about running with the NDP following her discussions with Layton, Thomas Mulcair and even party stalwart Ed Broadbent.

The stunning news of Boivin’s decision is another sign of the changing face of federal politics in Quebec.

In the next election, Quebec will be key. Yet it is in Quebec that the misdeeds of the Sponsorship scandal have the most resonance and where the Liberal brand is the most discredited.

The NDP has been out performing the Liberals in Quebec since the 2006 Repentigny by-election and the September 2007 by-elections where the Liberals lost their Outremont stronghold to Mulcair and placed a shocking fourth overall.

For a party to defeat Harper in the next election, it will need to have credibility on the war, credibility on the environment, as well as the crucial name recognition of former MPs like Boivin in Quebec.

Boivin’s interest in the NDP is another sign of what could be a hopeful reemergence of a progressive federalist force in Quebec. The Harper Conservatives have reason to look worried.

Friday, February 15, 2008

NDP calls for "a new coalition" to take on Harper

Stephane Dion's listless capitulation to grant the Conservatives the means to extend the Afghanistan mission for another two years has, as Chantal Hebert notes today, once and for all cast today's Liberals as mere bit players in Stephen Harper's agenda and surrendered whatever progressive credentials they once clung to:

"Harper may be the main beneficiary of Dion's decision but Jack Layton comes a close second. For as long as he has been NDP leader, he has looked for a defining issue to set himself apart from the Liberals. This week's Afghan developments will go some way to insulate NDP support from Liberal attempts to rally progressive voters against the Conservatives in the next election."

Sensing the disappointment of grassroots Liberals, the NDP is now setting out to build.

In an open letter posted to their website, party president Anne McGrath has extended the party's hand to build "a new political coalition" of New Democrats and Liberal supporters who remain opposed to Stephen Harper's agenda:

"I’m making an extraordinary appeal to all New Democrat supporters to invite their Liberal friends to join our party right now -- the only national party not in favour of two more years of war and the only national party standing up to Stephen Harper’s agenda.

Just like we did nearly 50 years ago when we formed the NDP, it’s time to build a new political coalition in Canada -- a coalition that will stand up to Stephen Harper and put forward a vision of prosperity, fairness and peace in the world."

It wasn't long ago that Dion was using the language of "coalition" to describe his accord with Elizabeth May and the rump of the Progressive Canadian party. The irony now of course, is that building a coalition around the Liberal Party to defeat Harper is tantamount to building a coalition around McDonalds to defeat juvenile obesity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Liberals ready to push Dion off a ledge

Given the choice of dumping Stephen Harper as PM or Stephane Dion as their leader, Liberal MPs would prefer to heave Dion overboard.

CTV’s Bob Fife was just reporting on the mood among Liberal MPs as they face the prospect of a brutal reception from Canadians when they come a’ knocking this March.

Rolling back the Ti-vo, when asked how deep the Liberal divisions are, the conversation with Mike Duffy went like this:

Fife: Very deep, Mike. Virtually every senior member of the Liberal caucus from the Bob Raes, the Ralph Goodales, Senator David Smith, Michael Ignatieff, all of the senior people, including some of the people who run the campaign, including Gordon Ashworth, they do not want an election right now because they don't believe the party is ready to go into an election. One senior Member of Parliament said to me we're going to have to get him change his mind or push him off the ledge.

Duffy: That's Stephane Dion they're talking about. So in a way, Stephane Dion's tough talk, his bravado has put them in a tough corner and Stephen Harper upstairs has decided that's it, we're going.

As was reported here as well, Liberals would, to paraphrase Garth Turner, rather have involuntary surgery than an election. They would rather deal with Stephen Harper’s right wing agenda than beg Canadians to vote for them. And if they must, they’re prepared to damage their party even further to prove it.

Nobody does internecine warfare better than the Liberals. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Shame on you, Omar.

Word of another disgraceful act in the House of Commons this afternoon:

When the vote came on the government’s controversial bill to reinstate security certificates, which were stuck down by the Supreme Court, Omar Alghabra, the Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erindale abruptly absented himself from the chamber.

While other Liberal MPs voted with the Conservatives to pass the bill into law, Alghabra stood behind the curtain, perhaps perusing the hundreds of emails from Arab Canadians begging him to oppose the bill on his Blackberry.

When the vote was over, he returned to proudly vote for a motion on another matter.

Alghabra, it will be recalled, is the former head of the Canadian Arab Federation, who have rightly been blistering in their criticism of security certificates.

If Alghabra didn't want to support his party’s retrograde position in support of security certificates, why didn't he quit the party, or at least vote against it, as Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi did?

Or have the Liberals’ seven abstentions to keep Harper in power left MPs like Alghabra with the opinion that voting to represent their constituents is now optional?


Hey everyone! It's David Emerson's anniversary!

That's right, two years ago today David "the anti-Harper" Emerson abruptly divorced 20,062 Vancouver--Kingsway voters who had entrusted him with their vote so he could shack-up with Stephen Harper.

Just like two years ago, this anniversary probably snuck-up on you. But don't worry about rushing out to get a gift, the NDP's got you covered:

(Cool graphic. Kinda reminds you of a CTV movie of the week. Are you listening, Rick Lewchuk , CTV Senior Vice-President, Program Planning and Promotion? Are you?)

Monday, February 4, 2008

BREAKING: Dion inching closer to Harper on Afghanistan mission

Tonight Jack Layton and Stephane Dion had their meeting at which the NDP leader laid out his proposal for a united front against the Conservatives to end the combat mission in Afghanistan.

The talks concluded with Dion telling “reporters that he and Layton effectively agreed to disagree.” By rejecting Layton’s overture, the Liberals are now left staring into Stephen Harper’s steely gaze.

While the two leaders agreed to keep the lines of communication open, Layton acknowledged that Dion currently seems to be leaning more towards Harper's position than the NDP position.
"He does seem to be quite committed to the notion that the NATO mission should proceed but just that someone else should move in to do what we were doing there. We see that as very much on the Manley-Harper path."

Interesting will be the effect that Dion's decision to play into Harper's hands will have on the Liberal caucus. Dion told reporters that Liberals won’t be allowed a free vote like the one that saw 24 of them help Harper extend the mission until 2009. This spells big touble for a party with so much division on this critical issue.

After Dion meets with Harper tomorrow, expect more than a few Liberal MPs to come down with another acute case of Dion-dyptheria.

The other Dion's half-time show

Tout le monde wasn't watching.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What does the Liberal Party of Canada actually want?

The most important role of political parties, the text book tells us, is “the aggregation of interests.” In other words, people with similar interests join together in a party to advance a single set of demands. That party in turn competes for popular support against parties with conflicting demands.

Knowing what a political party stands for helps to make democracy easier for the user (er, that’s us). Makes perfect sense, right?

Where this all breaks down is Canada’s erratic and hallucinatory Liberal Party.

The latest case is Keith Martin, the MP who is demanding the gutting of Canada’s hate laws. “Hold on,” you say, “isn’t the Liberal Party the party of diversity, multiculturalism and respect for human rights?” Sure it is. But it’s also now the party of hate groups.

This is not new. In an attempt to be all things to all people all the time, the Liberal Party has taken the aggregation of interests to the bizarre end of the aggregation of opposite interests.

For another example, if you want the Afghanistan mission to end, there are Liberal MPs for that. But if you want it to go on indefinitely, there are Liberal MPs for that too.

And if you are in favour of public health care, there are Liberal MPs for that. But if you want private delivery, there are Liberal MPs for that too.

It is now to the point that you can expect to find no greater unity of opinion on any issue in the Liberal Party of Canada than you would on a city bus. The difference is, at least the people on the bus know where they are headed.

Friday, February 1, 2008

False sanctimony and Sponsorship

Who ever would have guessed that when Liberals started rending their Hugo Boss and setting their hair-by-Renaldo on fire over other people’s alleged “drive by smears” last month that it would ever come back to haunt them?

Er, precisely.

And while one could have easily predicted this from the more accident-prone Hollands, Thibaults and Coderres on the team, the leader really isn’t supposed to be on a political party’s libel watch.

So where were all the lawyers who infamously cling to the errant Liberal ship to prevent Dion’s misstep? If this is any clue, they are all franticly scrambling to cut a deal with the Crown.