Friday, May 15, 2009

The Depressing State of Canadian Politics

The recent troubles of Ruby Dhalla and the release of yet another round of attack ads from the Conservatives, directed personally at Michael Ignatieff, is just further indications of how low Canadian politics has sunk in a very few short years. Not much more than a decade ago the Dhalla story would have been barely mentioned as the personal troubles of a Member of Parliament were generally ignored. Maybe it would have received some mention in the Toronto papers, buried deep, deep in the inner pages, but it would not have received days of coverage nor would it have warranted days of Parliamentary hearings. As for the attack ads, not too many years ago they would have been met with howls of outrage from the media. There was a time when political opponents could question each others judgement, vision, governing style and policy proposals but personal attacks were strickly off limits. Actually questioning your opponent's patriotism and/or Canadian identity would have been met with heaps of scorn from our chattering classes.

There was a time when politics was about people with honest disagreements on how to resolve the many problems that arose in the life of this country. Certainly they disagreed with each others ideas and policy proposals but it was implicitly understood and acknowledged that your opponent came by his opinions out of their love of Canada, the desire to make it better and to assist all Canadians.

Now of course personal attacks are just a routine part of the political "debate".

Many Liberals believe that attacking Mr. Ignatieff in the way the Conservatives are attacking him will backfire. Perhaps, but they would not have released these ads if they did not believe they would resonate with some Canadians.

I blame the American Republican Party for this sad state of affairs. Newt Gingrich and his merry band of neo-cons in the US made politics personal by personally attacking Bill Clinton at every opportunity. Granted President Clinton gave them more than a few openings but the witch hunt regarding his financial dealings during his time as Governor and the impeachment of him largely because of a blow job were way over the top. However, it ultimately worked because the Republicans rode the disgust they so assiduously cultivated amongst the American electorate to the White House (with the assistance of some partisan state officials and Supreme Court justices). The Reform movement in this country saw that and they began to follow the same practices. It began with Stock Day but he was not very good at it so it took Stephen Harper and his gang to perfect it. Mind you, the Liberals cannot claim to be squeaky clean in this either. They launched an ad campaign against Mr. Harper before the 2004 election which did not directly question his patriotism and loyalty to Canada but it certainly inferred they were both lacking.

I disagree with Stephen Harper on many issues on many different levels. However, I do not believe that any of his actions are out of malice towards Canada. I believe that he truly believes that his ideas and policy solutions to real and perceived problems in this country will make Canada better and stronger. His ideas are certainly more radical than what we have seen in the past but that does not make him unpatriotic or disloyal.

Thankfully, the situation seems to be changing and again that change is being seen first in the US. The masters of personal attacks in the US have been soundly defeated. They have not accepted this yet and they are happily reducing the Republican Party to a rump. It will be awhile before that changes. The hatefilled, parochial, ignorant, narrow-minded wingnuts that now dominate that party are still drunk on the idea that they had one of their own elected president twice. It is going to take another crushing defeat in 2012 and the prospect of facing a fresh, young VP cum presidental candidate in 2016, after Joe Biden announces his retirement from politics in 2011, to change that. At that point the adults in the Republican Party will reassert their dominance and re-establish the Republican Party back to something resembling a political party that is able to represent true conservative minded Americans.

It is going to take awhile for that dynamic to be seen here but I am hopeful that we will begin to see that kind of change within the next few years.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Impeach President Obama

He likes Dijon mustard on his hamburger. That is just,..., just,..., just unAmerican.

What's next, mayonnaise on his French Fries, er..., I mean Freedom Fries?

Will someone please think of the children!!!! (With apologies to Maude Flanders)

Ruby Dhalla exposes Conservatives' fear

I was not going to write about the troubles of Rudy Dhalla. For the life of me I really do not care about the problems she is having with her former employees. However, when I saw how much the Conservatives are piling on this story I could not help but comment. Hell, I even had a moment that left me gaping at the television set.

For the life of me I cannot believe the Conservatives are spending so much time and energy on this story. They are even thinking of bringing Ms. Dhalla's accusers in to testify at a Parliamentary committee hearing. That would be interesting because if I were a Liberal MP my first questions would be why did you wait a year to do anything and why was your first act to talk to a reporter instead of the authorities.

It is obvious that they believe this will harm the Liberals, which just demonstrates that they are hopelessly out of touch.

At the risk of sounding sexist I can virtually guarantee that every male, who is not a political animal, is ignoring this story because of the NHL playoffs and the latest round of the Balsillie/Bettman war. I would imagine most of them would briefly see a headline about Ms. Dhalla on their way to a story where they would be able to see what is "the latest excuse of that prick Bettman" for denying Canada another hockey team. This is particularly true in Southern Ontario where both of these stories are receiving the most exposure. As for women, I imagine they may be more interested but again for those who are not political animals I imagine the greatest reaction is "Lucky her, she can afford a live-in nanny". Then for that small few that can afford a live-in nanny many would probably feel for Ms. Dhalla because having your live-in employees exposing family business, good or bad, in some way is probably their greatest nightmare with regard to their help.

Despite that the Conservatives are moving heaven and earth to try to make this a bigger story than it actually is. There has even been some suggestion that they orchestrated this whole affair. While I believe such a scenario is possible I do not believe it is plausible. Make no mistake, the Conservatives are capable of this kind of underhanded actions and they are arrogant enough to believe they will not get caught or if they do get caught their arrogance will allow them to claim they did nothing wrong. However, as of now I do not believe they are really behind this.

But for the sake of argument let's say they are. Why would they let this story hit now during a relatively peaceful political period? In this atmosphere this story will be but a blip for both the Liberals and Ms. Dhalla. This is the type of story that should be released during the pressure cooker of an election. That is when a story like this would have its maximum impact on both the candidate and her party. Now, not so much.

So why are they playing this story up so much?

Because the Liberal resurgence is real and the corresponding Conservative fading is also real. Everybody in this town knows it. You can see it in the sudden rapprochement of the NDP, Bloc and Conservatives. You can see it in the body language and demeanour of the Conservatives themselves.

Even the Conservative cheerleaders in the media can see the writing on the wall, which is what brought me to the jaw dropping moment while watching the news. While idly listening to the CTV news I heard Bob Fife, a bald face Conservative shill if there ever was one, refer his viewers to the Toronto Star. Mr. Fife works for CTV, which is owned by the same company that owns The Globe and Mail. The G&M's chief competition in the GTA and the Golden Horse Shoe is the Toronto Star. To see Bob Fife refer his viewers to one of his company's biggest competitors left my mouth hanging around my ankles. (It was then followed by a belly laugh that left me red face and sputtering with my wife pounding me on the back to start me breathing again).

The fear amongst Conservatives, their supporters and their media cheerleaders is palpable. They know things are slipping away and many are beginning to wonder just how far it will slip. Judging by their reaction to Ms Dhalla's domestic problems I would say they believe the slip will not be small.

Thanks Ms. Dhalla.