Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Another poll out today that confirms a tightening race in Ontario, fair to say almost any configuration is possible at this point. Plenty of digestion why Hudak's big lead has eroded, but from the Liberal perspective the trendlines offer a relatively positive entry into the real election race.

One thing I've been quite impressed with are the Liberal ads. I'm not sure how the ads are resonating, but they're quite sharp, focused, clean and somewhat outside the box, politically speaking. Case in point, this latest ad featuring McGuinty:

I genuinely love this ad, particularly McGuinty front and center, addressing his popularity in confident fashion. The subsequent listing of achievements, with clever sourcing to cement, it's a very slick ad. In the past, when campaigns are faced with an unpopular leader, they tend to emphasize everything but, that's a known strategy. However, I've always thought avoiding the elephant in the room is a mistake, and the Liberals have devised a clever way to acknowledge the true "drag" and turn it around into a testament to achievement.

I recall PC's and others howling at early ads, because they didn't show McGuinty or only used his voice, evidence they said of just how unpopular he really is, what a liability. Interesting then that the Liberals put out an ad that is all McGuinty, a plain backdrop, he is 100% of the focus. When you weave this ad in with the other offering, I see a strategy which can be quite effective.

I remember in the last federal campaign stating that the NDP seemed to have the better ads, ours seemed fairly pedestrian, standard, nothing of real interest. I mention this fact only because any "pumping" of Liberal ads now will immediately be seen as simple partisanship. Whomever is running the ads within Team Ontario Liberal, it's looking quite impressive from here...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Liberal Democrats?

Some interesting comments in the latest NDP-Liberal merger piece. A few days ago, a post by Rob Silver, which for my money could be one of the more thought provoking concepts put forward. I've also thought about the possibility of a new party, but in the wake of Layton's death, the public sentiment, I see a more realistic opportunity.

I've voted Green, I've voted NDP and obviously I've voted Liberal, all this century as well. Partisanship has only become part of my psychological predisposition the last few years, as I decided to engage in a political party, join a "tribe" and invest in that agenda. Not unique, you find yourself at odds with your own "team" quite often, quickly realizing that being a member of a party necessitates compromise and pragmatism. If you hold that view that a political party is capable of completely mirroring your own moral and philosophical compass, it's an exercise in futility. I mention this naked fact, because part of the opposition to mergers, unions, coalitions, is an inability to accept a differing perspective, a resistance to compromise in the name of a perceived greater good. In the past, I've sort of balked at "merger" talk because I know full well that stubborn interests in both parties are frankly incapable of seeing past their respective teams. Meshing the two distinct cultures is almost herculean, the dynamics at play bear NO relationship to the merger we recently saw on the right.

With the above in mind, the Silver suggestion appears a far more intriguing option. In addition, with the sincere and genuine affinities that manifested themselves the last few days, I would argue the logic has never been more sound. What we've seen is progressives of all stripes, Liberals, NDP, Greens, non affiliated come together within an optimistic message which while partisan in crafting, spoke well beyond artificial boundaries. The fight is larger than a party, it's about a direction of a country, and within that I see a recognition of MANY shared values. Not an overlap, not everyone in complete lockstep on all issues, but a more GENERAL thrust which suggests real opportunity.

The time has come to put everything on the table, really FLESH out what could be, identify the roadblocks and access the best options moving forward. The status quo is a probable loser, unless your name is Stephen Harper. Open minds, a sensibility that extends beyond tribalism, within this vein could come a truly unifying force. Perhaps a new entity, without the historical shackles, divergences and narrow interests is a possibility worth serious consideration...

Monday, August 29, 2011

And They're Off!!

If anyone thought it would take a few days to build up a NDP leadership lather, you would be mistaken, because the race has begun in earnest today. The apparently well sourced Hill Times article lays out some potential fault lines, evidence of acrimony and divisions that would even make a long in the tooth Liberal take notice.

Perhaps a bit premature to say a "stop Muclair" sentiment exists, but clearly he is a controversial figure within the NDP ranks. I'm not sure I buy the angle that Mr. Layton purposely opted for a quick vote to undercut Muclair, but I don't doubt a rapid timetable was preferred because leadership contests are divisive, that's just the nature of the beast. What is clear, the NDP have to be very careful how they deal with Muclair, given the geographic nature of their caucus and support, any overt evidence of "stop" could have negative ramifications. Of course, it is all very premature, but the the tone of the Hills article suggests a real undercurrent exists, which makes for some fascinating machinations moving forward.

I'm not sure what to make of the Brian Topp musings, frankly his name seems to have come out of nowhere. I suspect we will learn more in the coming days about how his potential candidacy came to consideration, because at first blush it seems a very awkward direction. I've seen a fair bit of Brian Topp and I've seen absolutely nothing optically that suggests he has the tools to be a successful politician. Time will tell I suppose.

Lots of names being floated, one that I'm keeping a very close eye on from afar, Paul Dewar. I've mentioned Dewar before as a possible successor, from this vantage point he appears to have all the tools, so I'm curious to see if his name emerges over the coming days. From a partisan perspective, Dewar is the one name that should scare the shit out of Liberals IMHO. Why? A compelling authenticity that has the capacity to really resonate.

The NDP leadership race has started. If today's coverage is any indication, we political junkies are in for a battle that would make anonymous senior Liberal insider proud ;)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"These People Never Stop"

First, a couple thoughts on the Blatchford column, now that the funeral has passed, then some digestion of the line above, which was the central thrust of her column and those that support it.

It's not really what Blatchford wrote- Layton's letter was a political document, Stephen Lewis even referred to it as a "manifesto" yesterday- it was the timing. Most people have an internal mechanism which would prevent penning that piece, then, because the reaction was entirely predictable. Blatchford's column really was a study of her own character flaws, it wasn't "brave", it was asinine and devoid of basic common sense and compassion. The subsequent column, wherein Blatchford lists all the terrible things people said to her in response, really a validation of her horrendous judgement. The second column a now common refrain (see Coren after his Norway terrorist crack), rather than deal with the substance of complaints, you highlight the most offensive to garner sympathy for yourself and in so doing completely ignore the central problem. The real issue here is why Christie Blatchford is so bloody jaded and cold hearted that her FIRST response to this death is to lash out in unseemly and embarrassing fashion. Had Blatchford waited a few days, her column would have been seen in an entirely different light, because at the heart, there is a relevant point, which no one, including my NDP friends would deny.

"These people never stop", and they didn't stop at the funeral either, which turned into a political event, rather than a traditional funeral. One last reference to Blatchford, speaking of never stopping, I wonder if she had penned a outraged piece on our PRIME MINISTER'S weekly meeting to review where the Economic Action Plan signs were placed. I mention Harper because our political world is now dominated by 24/7 focus, everything is throw into the mix and parties have dedicated staff who's sole focus is to never stop, never let any opportunity go, never fail to calculate. Jack Layton was "on" all the time, he was a professional politician, why would anyone expect his last missive to lack this overriding characteristic? Why would anyone begrudge a dying man- and his team for that matter- a final chance to cement a legacy and provide a path forward, which of course had an element of self interest? In other words, people actually expected Jack Layton to stop being Jack Layton? Were you paying attention?

What Mr. Layton wrote, how he choose to be buried, certainly belies a motivation to push a very politicized agenda after his death. Mission accomplished Mr. Layton, one final contribution which highlights why you became Leader of the Opposition in the first place. The same spirit, the same unrelenting focus, his death mirrored his life, Mr. Layton understood this was a moment from which to capitalize. The NDP team kept their wits about them, in this fascinating attempt to turn grief and sullen resignation into a truimphant moment that will pace the party moving forward. I saw bravo to the NDP, bravo to Mr. Layton for demonstrating his political skill until the bitter end, rather than anger I commend how shrewd "these people" really were and are.

Blatchford was actually right in one limited sense, woven within a column that was ALL WRONG, on EVERY level.

Monday, August 22, 2011

R.I.P. Mr. Layton

I'm away for the week, but I wanted to offer my condolences to Mr. Layton's family. To my NDP friends , I am so tremendously sorry. What a sad day, no matter your politics.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Not Without Risk

The proposed new Parliament seat allocation issue is a microcosm of the potential problems the NDP face. Today's article in The Toronto Star highlights the NDP high wire act, which involves trying to appease their new found Quebec base, without alienating the rest of the country and their more entrenched and traditional support:
Voting fairness is not divisive

Since when did representation by population – a basic democratic principle if ever there was one – become “divisive?” Apparently since it might threaten the New Democratic Party’s support in the north, rural areas and Quebec.

Nycole Turmel, the NDP’s interim leader, was asked this week about the Harper government’s proposal to add seats in the Commons to ensure fairer representation for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. All three provinces are badly under-represented for the simple reason that they’ve added lots of people over the past decade.

Turmel's viewpoint is woefully narrow. In fact, if she denoted the slightest understanding of western alienation in particular, she would comprehend that consistent under-representation in our Parliament has lead to much "division", much angst and ill feelings. Instead, the NDP position seems a simple champion of Quebec interests with no consideration of other regional viewpoints. The math defies the NDP's position, leaving them with the appearance of almost Bloc-like self interest, before the greater interest of the country. Whatever spin is provided, there is simply no distracting from the optics of resisting rep by pop in the name of political appeasement.

Strategically, the NDP are determined to shore up Quebec support, and one can hardly blame them. However, with a caucus now suddenly dominated by one province, there will inevitably be a "national" tension and this makes for careful navigation. This seat allocation issue is another example, within an emerging theme, that puts the NDP on precarious ground in the rest of Canada. Should other regions start to view the NDP as simply parroting Quebec's interests, it will lose credibility, of that I have no doubt whatsoever. This allocation question position, absurdly calling a move to more fairness "divisive" tells certain provinces the NDP doesn't have your back, they aren't fighting for you, their inclination is to support a democratic slight. Taken in isolation, perhaps nothing seismic, but if the Quebec-first perception starts to gel, the NDP are vulnerable.

Turmel's comments on seat allocation are disappointing for the Official Opposition. Amateurish in tone, offensive in substance, this one sided perspective may curry favour in Quebec, but it also leaves others feeling slighted. Add in the rural/urban disconnect, failure to comprehend the most basic ideas of electoral fairness, and the NDP look opportunistic and political, rather than principled. For my money, the single biggest dynamic in Ottawa to watch the next couple of years is how the NDP nuance the natural tensions of Canadian federalism. So far, so fail...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Musings From Upper Canada

I believe every link to the monarchy is a reinforcement of an outdated, anti-democratic, elitist system which betrays the basic notion of equality, success as a function of talent, skill or achievement and a modern society where all citizens have input. I also realize, that in Canada, many entrenched monarchist ties are hard to undo, institutionalized, complete eradication challenged by simple practicalities. However, in noting the rationalization for the latest regressive move by these Conservatives, I'm struck by the absurdity in logic:
"The country that forgets its history does so at its own peril," said MacKay in Halifax

This argument, a common thread noted by most proponents yesterday. It's a false distinction, as though without the name somehow the brave sacrifices, victories of the past are lesser in stature. Anyone with a ounce of common sense can see beyond simple labelling to note the "proud tradition", my impression of what Canadian soldiers did at Juno Beach doesn't even digest the relevance of name, nor do I see a disconnect from the bravery displayed in present day Afghanistan. This "issue" is a fabrication, a concoction that relies on misplaced romanticism and flawed logic to argue we MUST embrace our past, as though it really is a choice. Such bullshit, such dribble, insulting to think we need "Royal" again to fully appreciate our history.

Unfortunately, history can sometimes be a hindrance to progress, reverence for the past a shackle which prevents evolution. The monarchy is a historic relic for all practical purposes, now reduced to all day discussions about fashion and robotic adherence to ancient protocols, stuffy, unrepresentative, trivial and no longer relevant in a modern society. Taking this position doesn't distract from acknowledging the past, doesn't fail to recognize the importance of "Royal" speeches during war, doesn't reject history, it just understands that it is history. When you cut through the psychological reverence which is now more about celebrity worship than anything, you are left with people who's only achievement is lineage, representative of power which rules over people, rather than serves their interests, based on inputs. I can walk and chew gum, I can remember our past, applaud past achievements, "never forget", without former designations, the whole issue is beyond irrelevant, in terms of appreciating.

That people have now attached monarchist labels to notions of patriotism and acknowledgement of sacrifice and achievements is unfortunate, unnecessary and a false premise. A society can move forward without betraying its past, to suggest otherwise is simplistic and wrongheaded. I assure you, how I view my grandfather's service during World War II isn't altered by a designation, a more trivial concern I can hardly fathom. The Conservatives have instituted a regressive move, and the only real value I take from the decision is it's symbolic of their wider vision, or lack thereof as the case may be.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Don Martin weighs in with a common sense analysis of the looming Liberal President race and the signals it will send:
Somebody make her stop. Please.

The LAST thing the Liberals need are controversial figures from its past to become the fresh face of its future. It would send the signal that old war horses are riding to the rescue in a frantic apocalyptic gallop.

That's not to say Ms. Copps lacks the experience and political insight to be a decent Liberal president. It's just that the optics of this 1980s Rat Packer supervising the revival would tourniquet any hope of injecting fresh blood into the party.


I am starting to look at this Liberal President race as the canary in the coal mine. If Liberals don't recognize the obvious pitfalls of looking for "experience" and past glories, rather than an entirely fresh approach, then I will conclude that we live in this esoteric world that STILL hasn't grasped the realities of the moment, what is required to survive. It really is that simple, either Liberals get beyond self interest and insular thinking, or we plod along relying on outside forces and remote hopes to determine our fate. Everyone, past and present needs to pitch in, but when it comes to taking the lead, the high profile motivators, a generational change is beyond obvious. We have one chance here to get it right, nobody owes Liberals anything, our nostalgic tendencies, I assure, have no relevance beyond our membership. Here's to hoping we get it right at our next convention....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Of Those Polls

Angus Reid poll on the Turmel affair offers a bit of everything, depending on how you spin the results.

Bottomline, the horserace numbers show little NDP erosion in the wake of the leadership issue, so that should give dippers some comfort. As well, only 41% of people are concerned about Turmel's past ties, 51% are not. On the face of it, no issues for the NDP, numbers solid, a bare majority not concerned. I suspect we will see these numbers highlighted to support the "witchhunt" argument.

On the other hand, I can point to a couple findings which suggest potential problems. I see this issue of the NDP flirtation with separatists- both in terms of people and MORE importantly policy- as a festering issue that will be on the political radar for sometime. With that backdrop in in mind, the overall numbers are somewhat skewed by the Quebec offset. For example, in Ontario 49% are concerned, only 44% are not. This result feeds the argument that any fallout is more an "outside Quebec" concern for the NDP, which is the central issue from my perspective.

In addition, while overall numbers suggest less concern, there is a strange disconnect on whether Turmel should stay on or not. On this clear question, 45% think she should resign, 35% do not. Again, take the Quebec numbers out of the equation, you see an almost 2 to 1 finding in Ontario, 49% want Turmel to resign, a lowly 29% think she should stay. British Columbia 49% to 21%, despite respondents not expressing much concern. These numbers suggest, that outside of Quebec, Turmel has some serious credibility issues, which is very concerning for a shiny new leader.

This is a "one of those" polls, wherein you can cobble together various conflicting arguments. For example, I think the NDP's "footsie" routine is a problem, one that the Liberals can provide a robust federalist counter to. This poll does nothing to dissuade me from that perspective, Turmel looks quite vulnerable, and in vote rich Ontario, the past ties aren't a "big whoop" consideration. It's an open argument.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Silver Linings

Lots of talk about Obama's approval rating, some analysis comparing him to Carter, it looks bad, but brightens considerable when taken out of isolation. Yes, if you confine yourself to impressions of Obama, the picture isn't pretty. However, this type of dissection forgets that Obama clearly operates in a "lesser of two evils" world, the same polling that provides the evidence of decaying approval that everyone is seizing on, ALSO shows relatively absymal numbers for his competition.

The latest Gallup poll for CNN/USAToday highlights why Obama's circumstance isn't as grave as many are suggesting. In fact, compared to the Republicans, Obama is downright popular:
Approve 45%
Disapprove 52%

Last year, Obama's approval dropped to 42%, a 12% app/dis gap from same pollster. These numbers are objectively worrying, but become less concerning when you look at the Congressional approvals, GOP approvals. This poll found Congressional approval at a new low 14% approval, a staggering 84% disapprove. This gap is the largest seen, by a wide margin, so while Obama is meandering in a zone for the last year, things just get worse and worse for the GOP lead Congress, in the minds of Americans. This comparison is imperative, if one wants to understand who ultimately gets blame, when push comes to shove in the voting booth, who is most vulnerable.

The findings get worse for the GOP. We can all agree that in the debt ceiling standoff, the impression is that the Republicans won the day, Obama "caved". It's true that Obama doesn't come off well in the aftermath of this extended debt deal dance, but considering how Americans feel about the deal, the consensus of who "won", perhaps ownership is an albatross. Only 44% approve of this deal, 52% disapprove. People strongly support tightening government's belt, but they also strongly agree that taxes should be raised. In other words, this debt deal doesn't enjoy popular support, it only address half of the problem and this explains why overall approval of it is so low. To summarize then, only 34% of Americans think Obama and the Democrats are responsible for this deal, this agreement is no "victory" for the Republicans in a strategic sense. The Democrats and Obama can still push the tax angle, arguing it is the reason this debt deal doesn't achieve what is required to quell fears.

Here is the most informative finding:
Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the negotiations over the debt ceiling in Washington over the past few days.

Approve Disapprove No opinion

Barack Obama 46% 53% 2%
The Republican leaders in Congress 30% 68% 2%
The Democratic leaders in Congress 35% 63% 2%

A clear distinction between Obama and in particular the Republicans. While nobody wins in this debate, more blame clearly goes to the Republican side. Taken further, I can guarantee the GOP Presidential Candidate will adopt the GOP lines on taxes that are so unpopular and a central part of the debt debate moving forward. This debt debate isn't over, Democrats will use the issue of taxing the rich as a cornerstone to pickup seats in the Congress and it will be core point of divergence in the Presidential debate. As well, if people are absolutely disgusted with their Congress, historic lows, it is most noteably an issue for House incumbents who are all up for grabs, whereas the Democratically dominated Senate only has 1/3 of seats vulnerable to "kick the bums out". Relative to Congress, Obama looks attractive, and this is the key dynamic to consider when one speaks of re-election chances. Despite all the warning signs for Obama, his best asset is still the competition, while he falls, they fall further. There is simply no evidence whatsoever that voters will reject Obama for the less flattering alternative, both he and Democrats can take some solace in this underlying fact.

Friday, August 05, 2011

"NDP Staffer" Joins Witch Hunt Against NDP

Pretend the following isn't a NDP staffer, who does it sound like?:
The staffer, speaking anonymously to RDI's La période des questions, said it shows a lack of integrity that Turmel held memberships in the Bloc Québécois for four years — until weeks before she announced her NDP candidacy — and in provincial party Québec Solidaire until Tuesday...

But the NDP staffer said there's unease in the party now because the people who selected Turmel as interim leader didn't know about her memberships in sovereigntist parties.

"The profound unease that's taken over the party is that there was a large number of people, the majority of people, who voted didn't know then. And that's a very, very serious unease, because it's a crisis of confidence.

"When we take a party membership, it's not a sign of friendship.... It's a commitment, it's an adherence to a philosophy," he said.

"You can't lead a federalist party when you were sufficiently involved in a separatist party or parties."

Sounds pretty much like every other person who has questioned Turmel on this issue, has problems with the whole affair. Had I just put the random quotes up people would swear it was a Liberal, a Conservative, a hack with an agenda. One question raised her, the staffer says the people who selected Turmel were unaware of memberships, but Turmel has specifically said Layton knew, so which is it?

What Happens In The Bass Boat, Stays....

I think everyone was a bit surprised when we learned that Stephen Harper and Rob Ford are "fishing buddies". I think nobody is surprised in the least to learn the Prime Minister's Office immediately tried to hunt down the culprit who made the grave error of uploading a gathering, which apparently was for conservative ears only:
The fishing trip stories caught everyone by surprise.

And the video?

“We were surprised that someone would do that,” said one senior Conservative who attended.

“You would like to think that when people come to these events, they come with the best intentions and motives.”

Harper’s office apparently felt the same.

Calls were placed to organizers as soon as the video went up.

Guest lists were sought in a bid to find who had posted it to YouTube and by Thursday morning, it was down.

It is a bit disturbing that one of the minions didn't understand that there are two worlds: the one carefully crafted for public consumption and the REAL one. The latter is forever kept quiet; yes these men fished together, but Canadians don't need to know that, they need to think Harper is in his basement working the kinks out of Baba OReilly with his band or hand feeding a kitten during a break from the hockey book.

It is simply hilarious to realize that as soon as this video goes online the PMO starts demanding lists, starts tracking down the bad conservative, obviously puts pressure to have it pulled. Also obvious, once pulled, people then start to wonder why, which results in a sheepish reboot to avoid further INSIGHT into the minds of these Conservatives. Yes, the video is a bit unfortunate on the McGuinty front, but Flaherty has pumped Ford forever, the ties are clear and everyone with functioning fore brain knows that this government salivates at the notion of McGuinty going down. All this video really told Canadians, the obvious, along with a curious revelation that Ford and Harper have a "relationship". Pulling the video doesn't make this fact disappear, so again, the PMO paranoia and KGB style reaction is overkill by any measure.

I await the next PM appearance, wherein staff pat down attendees and confiscate any recording or listening devices. The sad part, I'm sure that thought has crossed a mind or two in this PMO.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Science Gets Stiffed With The Bill

There are days when the Harper government's disingenuous agenda is easily discerned. Yesterday, Harper was at an event in Hamilton touting the imperative importance of science in a modern society. Later in the day, the Harper government unleashed a devastating blow to Environment Canada, "eliminating biologists, chemists, engineers, meteorologists and physical scientists", leaving people wondering if the agency can function properly. Rhetoric meets reality, another example of what almost amounts to a war against science, not "belt tightening" but a government with dangerously misplaced priorities.

Lost in the debate- at least as far as public consciousness-, all these "cuts" aren't necessarily a result of economic circumstance, but more correctly a by-product of irresponsible revenue cuts, in this case science is paying the price for slashing the GST, going too far with corporate tax cuts, etc. I'm no economist, but when you bring in less revenue, at the same time you ramp up spending on your pet priorities, you leave a huge fiscal gap and someone has to pay the price. This situation exists apart from an economic downturn, it is an institutional shortfall created by this government and their policies.

The massive cuts at Environment Canada follow a now emerging trend, wherein pullbacks in science will offset increases in military toys and backward prison policies. Ballooning costs to fund this government's justice agenda, within a reduced revenue environment, means something has to give to have any semblance of fiscal credibility. Science gets the short stick once again, the same people Harper lauded yesterday get turfed later and their valuable work lost in a regressive move for a supposed advanced society. Under the guise of necessary austerity- which is really a by-product of reckless priorities- this backward government GUTS scientific inquiry. As a result the notion of advancement- intellectual pursuit providing a great understanding of our environment- is fundamentally handicapped. Not terribly surprising, since the priorities this government is "blowing the wad" on have no empirical underpinning; the math, the statistics, the expenditure, the "evidence" experts and scientists rely on is absent. There is something sadly poetic then about cutting things that actually rely on a model you don't adhere to anyways with your other ideologically driven priorities. Let's not mince words, we are in the midst of a "war" on science, scientists, expert opinion, the educated class, they are systematically being marginalized by dogmatic ideologues and their odd adversarial disposition.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Federalist Vacuum

The Nycole Turmel story isn't something to be viewed in isolation, and for the Liberals it provides further direction in terms of emphasis. I'm more convinced than ever that the future of the Liberal Party resides within an reassertion of a strong federalist option. The beauty of this "focus", it is natural ground for the Liberals, so rather than re-inventing ourselves, it's a comfortable fit that we wear well.

Plenty of talk about the Liberals being "squeezed" from the political landscape, something which I geniunely worry about, because there is opportunity for others to do just that. However, there is an ever growing federalist vacuum emerging, which is ripe for Liberal exploitation. Rather than squeezed, plenty of elbow room on this file, as both our chief opponents have largely abandoned the strong federalist option. Harper's Conservatives have failed to provide strong cohesive direction, this Prime Minister has the narrow perspective of a Premier, as I've mentioned for years. We've had no First Minister's meetings, we see a lack of national direction on a host of files, further regional drift, the strength of our nation is eroding. I'm not sure people have quite digested the Harper reign, perhaps historic detachment will be required to see that our federation is more fractured than ever (the situation well beyond a simple question on the state of Quebec separatism). Currently, we have provinces going in every direction, a more pronounced tribal sense developing, partly because we lack a strong, unifying national voice to offset the natural tendencies of a large geographic entity.

The NDP have decided to court soft nationalists. This strategy has paid off, they have found a very receptive constituency in Quebec. However, there are consequences to adopting certain policies and currying favour, or at least inherent risk, given the delicate dance within Canada. With a robust Quebec caucus, clear indications of certain sympathies, the NDP will be in some conflict on certain national issues, they simply can't be a consistent champion of strong federalism. There is nothing wrong with the NDP policies on language, clarity, members with conflicted pasts, people are free to argue their case. However, if a party is going to take strong positions on language, clarity, then it necessarily leaves room for another argument, and just like the Conservative philosophy, these positions leave ample room for a truly national unifying force.

Canada needs a voice for strong federalism, given our system, it is the ESSENTIAL counterbalance to regionalism and divergent interests. There is always tension between provinces and the federal government, but currently there really is no offset force that speaks to people in a greater good sense, which tries to encourage co-operation, breaking down barriers, challenging to aspire to a "greater good". The Conservatives are philosophically opposed to an almost "interventionist" federalism, and the NDP have found electoral success at the expense of robust red and white flag waving. There is a void, but it needs articulation, passion and an inspiring voice. It is here that the Liberals can find their voice, not in a pandering way, but one that says this is who we are, we stand for a strong, unified Canada, if that alienates subsets so be it.

Where is the party that challenges Quebec, without pandering? Where is the party that embraces the dynamic culture and says it is confident enough to share with fellow Canadians, the notion of walls and barriers regressive? Where is the party that confronts western drift, alientation, rather than letting regional rivalry and pettiness fester? Harper's "Canadiana" is a military only consideration, almost every national outreach stems from this type of nationalism. The NDP are now limited, they must balance and as issues of unity arise, I see a watered down, appease all sides mentality, that will render their contribution thin at best. This reality leaves room for Liberals to wave the flag, champion the things that bring us together rather than divide, it's a noble pursuit, it speaks to the ideals of an inclusive society, the discussion lies within the former Liberal "pocket". One caveat, not a rehash of past expressions, the Liberal message must be modern, speak to where we've come from, respectful, but presenting a vision for future union. Ruffle some feathers, call out certain bigotries and tribal mentalities, speak OVER the heads of immediate self interst, aspire to be more than the sum of our parts. It is within this discussion that the Liberals can thrive, because this country desperately needs a committed, strong, unwavering federalist option that isn't afraid to confront the Canadian decay.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Under The Table Cloth

Rather than debate the details of the NDP Interim Leader Nycole Turmel story, I think the potential political importance is more a macro-level consideration. There is a wider narrative developing, with each successive "tension" the idea that the NDP are playing footsie with sovereigntists cements itself. We can debate the merits of each pursuit, but there is now NO question that the NDP will be subjected to continued scrutiny, this theme won't disappear.

Let's keep it real here, the NDP have been actively courting the soft nationalist vote for years, noted here and elsewhere, this isn't a revelation, but part of a well thought out political strategy. Obviously successful, it is however a bit laughable to think increased stature doesn't result in a more substantive debate about what certain policy adaptions mean, what certain relationships say about the nature of appeal, fair questions, particularly for the Official Opposition. In fact, I would argue, there was a certain prior "free ride" flavour that didn't quite digest the consequence of political expediency and we are only now catching up.

Appointing an Interim Leader with past ties to separatist entities is a fairly major blunder, but not entirely surprising given consistent political motivations. Since the election, the NDP have shrewdly- in most regards- worked to solidify their Quebec support, ensuring their success has some permanence rather than a historical fad. It is this mentality that puts a rookie MP from Quebec in the top job, it's this idea of firming up Quebec that leads Layton and company to settle on her name. However, it is also this almost singular focus which fails to note a fairly obvious pitfall within the strategy. Again, not to debate the details that are frankly irrelevant, it's simply a bad move to have any association to the Bloc presented to English Canada. I doubt today's storyline has any consequence in Quebec, but Nycole Turmel represents an unnecessary self inflicted wound elsewhere, red flags self-evident. Apparently, the NDP's Quebec-first zeal has lead to amateurish consideration and provided openings for opponents. Should the rest of Canada start to see the NDP moving from its traditional base to a Quebec-first entity, real erosion could occur, of that emerging vulnerability I have no doubt. The NDP are feeding that potential liability here, this isn't a blame your attacker scenario, but a sober realization that you've failed to see an easily ascertained danger, and in so doing perpetuated a narrative that does you no favours.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Perils Of Pragmatism

A pretty disappointing end to the American debt ceiling fight. Despite consistent polling that showed overwhelming support for raising taxes on the rich- as well as the GOP taking more of the "blame" for the impasse- in the end, it was Obama that blinked and in so doing rewarded rigid ideologues for their irresponsible stance.

A dangerous precedent has been set, reasonable compromise has been replaced by the notion that stubborn and reckless resolve can extract concessions, because others are forced to accept the burden of consequence. In this debt debate, the Tea Party members were prepared to go "all the way", prepared to throw the American and international economies into chaos, ignoring potential costs, consequence was left for others to consider. What is alarming, this fanatical resolve wins the day, because their inability to embrace pragmatic solutions, forces reasonable people to fill that void. The result of this dynamic, Obama losses, while we have a deal, his understanding of consequence, his recognition that a deal must be made, was ultimately his undoing in this process. Acting in this way is responsible, however when the other side doesn't reciprocate, we are left with a "cave" scenario, simply as a function of necessity.

It's important to look at this issue as a process, because it provides a new template for political obstruction. The Obama administration played all the classic cards, used the bully pulpit, a fairly effective pr campaign, every lever used to exert pressure and force a deal. Where the usual plot diverted, the antagonist failed to be a rational partner, it didn't react as thought, public opinion irrelevant, like a extremist religious entity, it embraced the apocalypse, bathed itself in it's rigidity, as though virtue. The final lesson, this intransigence will be victorious when squared off against moderate pragmatism. Not a deal in the traditional sense, but people working around fanatism, which ultimately emboldens the behaviour. Others are left to deal responsibily, and in so doing compromise their principles, while those most offside with mainstream opinion achieve their goals.

There will be future "standoffs", and unfortunately the lesson learned, the precedent here, is that you can abdicate your responsibilities and ultimately declare victory. Simply dig in your heels, put your hands over your ears and realize that others will appreciate consequence and act. In this instance, a nation was held hostage and to avoid bloodshed, ransom was paid. It really is a simple, and SCARY, as that....