Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Liberal Leadership: Who I would like to win and who I think will win

And they are not the same person.

Let me preface my remarks by stating that I am not a delegate at the convention and I am not a partisan for any of the leadership camps.

With the exception of Joe Volpe I would be comfortable supporting the Liberal Party regardless of which of the candidates were to lead it but I do have my preference of who that should be.

My first choice: Bob Rae

I have always liked Bob Rae. Even when he was the leader of the Ontario NDP it was obvious he was a liberal and not a socialist. I like his ideas and the way he thinks. I believe he is the only candidate with the right combination of good ideas, political and governing experience, sound political instincts and electability and I believe he has the qualities to be a good party leader and a good PM.

I do have some concerns about the influence the Power Corp. crowd will have on him but they will insinuate themselves into a position of influence no matter who wins the leadership so I can live with those concerns.

His record as Premier of Ontario is a drawback to be certain. However, Ontarians also remember the Harris/Eves days including the current Federal Finance Minister, who as the Ontario Finance Minister, managed to miscalculate (hide) a $5 billion deficit. So it would be a wash.

My second choice: Michael Ignatieff

His stock has been steadily rising in my eyes since he got into the race. I always liked the idea of his participation because he is an outsider with a big brain so I believed he would be able to shake things up a bit and get Liberals outside of their comfort zone but beyond that I did not consider him to be a serious candidate.

My view has changed over the last months. He has certainly done what I had hoped he would do. I have liked a lot of his ideas. I like the fact he does not appear to be averse to taking some political risks, and there is no doubting his liberalism, regardless of how his opponents paint him. But what really caught my attention was how he handled himself as the front runner in the race. As is the fate of all front runners he faced relentless attacks by his opponents and he faced them with poise and grace. If someone was contorting my life’s work and using it against me I do not believe that I would be so sanguine about it.

What that has shown me is he would be able to weather anything that Stephen Harper threw at him, probably making Stephen Harper look foolish, petulant and mean spirited in the process. That is electability.

All of this would have made him my first choice except that he has virtually no political experience. Jean Chrétien was a successful PM because of his decades of political experience and because he knew where all of the bodies were buried. Mr. Ignatieff lacks that completely so I do not believe that he would be as effective a PM as Mr. Rae. It is no use having big ideas if you are limited in your ability to make them a reality.

My third choice: Stephane Dion

Canadians owe Mr. Dion a debt of gratitude for his very effective battles against the separatists over the years. The Clarity Act was a thing of beauty.

He would make a great PM however I do not believe that he would ever have the opportunity.

Mr. Dion was my second choice until he threw that hissy fit in Montreal. Certainly, the Ignatieff supporters showed no class in heckling him but someone who would be PM must take that in good humour instead of having a whiny temper tantrum. He can expect much worse from Stephen Harper and if he ever did that during a general election campaign the Liberals would be toast. Combine that with the fact he could not even carry his home province in delegate selection, despite being the only candidate from Quebec, and you have someone who cannot win an election.

The remainder in order are: Brison, Dryden, Hall-Findley and Kennedy.

All would be good party leaders but none of them have any hope of beating Stephen Harper.

With regard to Mr. Kennedy, it is very rare for a provincial politician to make the jump directly from provincial politics to the PM’s chair. The only hope that he had of bucking that trend was by proving himself as a spectacular candidate. He failed.

I would never choose Mr. Volpe even if he were the only candidate left.

So who will win? Michael Ignatieff.

My opinion has not changed from six weeks ago, when I blogged about this, because the main dynamic that I described in that blog is still the reality. There is still no one who is THE alternative to Michael Ignatieff. I was hoping the Mr. Rae would have done so in the in the last six weeks but regrettably that is not the case.

Mr. Ignatieff still has a substantial lead over his opponents in delegate and ex officio support. There is no single alternative to him and it is likely that he now has a lock on the Quebec delegates. That is a recipe for victory. It will not be an overwhelming victory but I believe that he will eke out the win in the end.

All that being said I could be wrong so I guess we will have to wait until Saturday to know for certain.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Quebec Nation Motion and Deja Vu

From the mid to late 1990s I had the priviledge of working for the Liberals on Parliament Hill.

I was there when the Parliament of Canada voted to recognise Quebec as a distinct society.

I remember the debate about that move between the parties and amongst the Liberals themselves, which is why I have had such a strong sense of deja vu for the past week.

I remember I was against such a move for pretty well all of the reasons I have been hearing from Liberals about the nation motion and the nation resolution at the convention.

I argued that recognising Quebec as a distinct society was playing into the separatists' hands and they would use it to convince Quebecers to follow their dream or at the very least they would use it to acquire all sorts of powers from the Federal Government allowing them to realize their dream by the back door.

Well, I could not have been more wrong. Despite being on a high from their near victory in the 1995 referendum, despite being the government in Quebec for six years after Quebec was recognized as a distinct society and despite having the most charismatic separatist leaders since Levesque in Lucien Bouchard, the separatists failed miserably in parleying the distinct society recognition into realizing their ultimate goal. Indeed, they were such a failure that they could only look on in frustration and helplessness as the subsequent Clarity Act was met with a collective shrug in Quebec despite their best efforts to use it to create their "winning conditions". They were such a failure that they eventually lost the government in Quebec and the BQ was on its way to becoming irrelevant in Parliament, only to be saved by the sponsorship scandal. *sigh*

As for Quebec acquiring all sorts of federal powers, it just did not happen. The best they could do was get some representation in UNESCO, hardly earth shattering and hardly a development that will allow Quebec to realize independence through the back door.

I also argued that recognising Quebec as a distinct society would open the flood gates to all sorts of other demands from other provinces and groups to be recognized as distinct societies. After all we are all distinct.

The only thing I can say to that argument is that I am happy to congratulate the Middle-Aged, Greek Queens of Toronto in their recent recognition as a distinct society within Canada by the Parliament of Canada.

I also argued that recognizing Quebec as a distinct society would give the provincialists the ammunition they need to achieve their ends of dismantling our federation.

I was wrong again. The two great provincialists, Stephen (Mr. Firewall) Harper and Ralph (Get a Job) Klein have certainly continued their efforts to gut the federal government but they have not once cited or used the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society as a tool for doing so. The reason being is they do not care about such fuzzy notions as distinct society or nationhood. For them it is all about money, power and the fact they cannot get over the trauma that was delivered to their phyche by the NEP. (Both really should seek professional help to learn how to deal with that last one.).

This whole week has been almost identical to then. All of the same arguments. All of the same overheated rhetoric. The separatists crowing about their "victory" and how a separate Quebec is now in the bag. The overreaction of federalists to that crowing by the separatists. (My favourite is the front page headline of today's The Toronto Star).


Everybody needs to step back, take a breath and begin to think clearly. This is not the first time we have been down this road and it is not the first time that the doomsayers and those with their own less than virtuous agendas have tried to use the current situation to advance those agendas. The world is not going to end, the sun will come up tomorrow and Canada will still be around for quite some time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

If acknowledging Quebec as a nation is not the answer, what is the alternative? (Update)

Yesterday I asked the following questions regarding the Quebec Nation resolution.

What would you propose as an alternative to it?

How would you propose Liberals deal with the changes to our Federation?

What would you propose as an alternative to the proposals put forward by the Conservatives and the Separatists?

In asking the questions I was using that old lawyer trick of knowing the answer to them before asking.

Liberals still have not come to grips with the inevitability of change that came about as a result of the near miss of the 1995 referendum. They are still fixated by those oncoming headlights.

The Conservatives have come to grips with it and they have been using that near miss as a spring board to realize their goal of dismantling the federal government, dismantling its unifying influence in the process. Judging by the news reports from last week they are moving forward with that and I imagine that the Bloc and Mr. Charest will be quite happy to facilitate it when the time comes.

Although it is not perfect and it is fraught with risks the Quebec Nation resolution provides an alternative. It is not going away and although it needs to be amended Liberals should accept it and acknowledge what Quebecers already believe to be true.

Reject it and Liberals can kiss Quebec goodbye for at least another two elections and they get to watch helplessly as Mr. Harper, ably assisted by Mr. Duceppe, Mr. Charest, Mr. Klein's successor, Mr. Williams and Mr. Campbell, dismantle the Canadian federation.

Oh yes, as an aside, I completely reject the notion that other groups will scream to be recognized as nations if this resolution passes. Such slippery slope arguments are rarely valid and I find it hilarious that Liberals are using it when they have condemned the Conservatives for using it in the SSM debate. You know, if we let gays marry, then it is only a matter of time before polygamy, bestiality and all sorts of other unnatural unions are legal.

The assertion by some Liberals that acknowledging Quebec is a nation will lead to demands by such places as Toronto to be declared a nation is a preposterous as the Conservative assertion that SSM opens the door to legalizing pedophilia.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If acknowledging Quebec as a nation is not the answer, what is the alternative?

Alot has been said about the Quebec Nation Resolution that will be put forward during the convention. Many folks have come out against it and against those who would promote it.

Something has been nibbling at the back of my mind about its detractors for some time and I could never put my finger on what it was. It finally came to me about 1:30 this morning. The opponents of acknowledging Quebec as a nation are long on opposing it but they have not put forward any alternatives to it.

The 1995 Referendum made the status quo untenable and unsustainable. The results of that event made it inevitable that the Canadian federation was going to change. The question has always been how.

For the Separatists, their answer has always been same. Fortunately for Canada not enough Quebecers agree with them for a long enough time for them to be a real threat. Quebec separatists are constantly trying to goad Quebecers into being angry at English Canada because they know that when Quebecers are calm Quebecers realize that they have it pretty sweet in Canada.

For the Conservatives the answer is to devolve most of the powers of the Federal government to the provinces. Indeed, now that they are in power they seem to be working on doing just that if the news stories of the past week are to be believed. This is a much greater threat to Canada than anything the separatists can throw at us because it resonates well in many parts of the country, including in Quebec and it can be done without going through the nasty business of having a referendum. Fortunately for Canada the Conservatives are only in a weak and increasingly fragile minority government so maybe this threat can be averted.

For the Liberals, they have had the deer in the headlights look in their eyes since that night in 1995. They came up with some stop gap measures in the interim, such as the Clarity Act, but they had never put forward a proposal on how to deal with the fundamental changes that came about as a result of 1995. That seemed to have changed with the Quebec Nation Resolution.

Now I have read and heard all of the arguments against acknowledging Quebec as a nation but I would ask its opponents these questions:

What would you propose as an alternative to it?

How would you propose Liberals deal with the changes to our Federation?

What would you propose as an alternative to the proposals put forward by the Conservatives and the Separatists?

If acknowledging Quebec is a nation is not the answer then Liberals had better come up with something quick or we will have ceded this ground to both the Conservatives and the Separatists to the detriment of this country.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Canada will leave Afghanistan in 2007

This post is purely speculative and I hope you will indulge me as I engage in a little conspiracy theorizing. However, I believe the scenario I am going to describe is plausible.

I believe Stephen Harper's commitment to Canada's presence in Afghanistan is not a strong as he would have us believe. Under the right conditions he will "cut and run".

He has been setting up the right conditions for the last several weeks.

The first step of his plan has been to ratchet up the heat on NATO to provide more support for Canadian troops in Afghanistan. He has had his doggy eyed Foreign Minister publically complain about that on a number of occasions. The European NATO countries have been understandably reluctant which has allowed Mr. Harper to attempt to deflect some of the blame for the lack of success away from him to those European laggarts. However it also sets up the next month.

His second step is to cancel the EU summit. This step has a two fold objective. First to alienate the Europeans. Second, to not take away from the impact of step number three.

Which is to use the NATO meetings in Riga to make another high profile request for more support in Afghanistan. Now considering their current reluctance and the fact he has just snubbed them for the EU summit the European members of NATO will turn him down, politely to be certain, but the message will be clear enough. Such a rejection will be front page news all over Canada and the Harper government will use that as propaganda fodder throughout December to set up the final part of the plan.

Which is to announce, in late January, the withdrawel of Canadian troops from Afghanistan for later in 2007. His argument for the flip-flop will go something like this.

Canada is more that willing to do its part in Afghanistan, indeed we have been doing more than our part, but we cannot do it alone. Without the support of our other NATO allies Canada's position is untenable in the long run so Canada cannot stay. If NATO does decide to do more in the future Canada will stand side-by-side with our NATO allies.

Then in February he will announce a budget which will "fix" the "fiscal imbalance" and have all sorts of tax cuts. Then he will arrange his own defeat in the House and have an election.