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All stories filed under leadership...

  1. 2006-04-07: April 7th, 2006
  2. 2006-05-19: May 19th, 2006
  3. 2006-06-11: Analysis of the June 10th Liberal leadership debate
  4. 2006-06-14: The Green Party Leadership Debate
  5. 2006-06-18: Analysis of the June 17th Liberal leadership debate
  6. 2006-06-28: Dion is from Quebec: so what?
  7. 2006-08-22: Stop Iggy?
  8. 2006-08-30: Ignatieff says he'll run for parliament if he wins the leadership
  9. 2006-09-11: Analysis of the September 10th, 2006 Liberal leadership debate
  10. 2006-09-19: Last ballot scenarios: Ignatieff the... kingmaker?
  11. 2006-09-21: The London Leadership Debate
  12. 2006-09-29: Dion is your choice, too
  13. 2006-10-01: A few quick thoughts on super weekend
  14. 2006-10-06: The front-runners: All could be Prime Minister, given time
  15. 2006-10-11: I take it back, Iggy couldn't win an election
  16. 2006-10-13: From dog days to doggone debates
  17. 2006-10-17: The Toronto debate
  18. 2006-10-21: Debate #2,871: Montreal
  19. 2006-10-22: Elizabeth May to run in London, but not Bob Rae?
  20. 2006-10-26: Dion unleashes his letter writing capability on unsuspecting rival
  21. 2006-12-01: From the inside of a flash mob
  22. 2006-12-03: Brison's Hat Trick
  23. 2006-12-04: Dion's leadership begins in earnest
  24. 2006-12-04: A future Liberal cabinet
  25. 2006-12-14: What's Iggy up to?
  26. 2007-04-13: Stéphane Dion's honour
  27. 2007-10-26: The new Rat Pack?
  28. 2008-02-27: The oft-missed point
  29. 2008-05-28: Thoughts on meeting Elizabeth May
  30. 2008-06-23: Liberals don't know how to oppose and Conservatives don't know how to govern
  31. 2008-07-09: Municipal tax revenue issue has been very badly framed
  32. 2008-09-08: Bloc, NDP, Conservatives against democratic debate
  33. 2008-10-24: Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Displaying the most recent stories under leadership...

Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first of three miserable days on the stock market that signalled the start of the Great Depression. With that, rules for the Liberal leadership race about to come forward, and new developments on the highway construction front, there's lots to talk about these days.

First off, let me say that, given the choice, I want this man to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With that out of the way, down to business.

This week, Ontario posted a deficit of $500 million for the first time in a few years. I have never made any secret of my disdain for deficits, and when I see a provincial government spending more billions on building new highways than you can shake a stick at go into deficit, I really have to scratch my head.

As I have noted many times before, Guelph is currently subject of, or is close to, four major highway projects: new Highway 24 (Cambridge-Brantford), new Highway 7 (Guelph-Kitchener), new GTA West corridor (Guelph-Brampton), and realignment and upgrades to Highway 6, in four separate sections each with its own EA, from south of the 401 to north of Guelph city limits.

Last night was the 4th Public Information Centre for the first of the four sections of Highway 6 to be upgraded. I am disappointed to, again, see no consideration whatsoever for the need to connect the Hanlon industrial park to the nearby rail network, which would involve crossing the Hanlon near one of the interchanges being proposed and therefore would need at least some level of planning or preparation within this environmental assessment. The changes proposed in PIC #4 for the Hanlon in their latest "preferred plan" call for a two-way service road to run between Stone and Downey Rd on the west side of the Hanlon, connecting up to Woodland Glen Dr., and the associated construction of a large retaining wall through several back yards along Old Colony Trail.

From a traffic flow perspective, it's definitely an improvement over previous plans, but from an environmental and social perspective for that area, it's a definite setback. This never-ending balancing act is frustrating to me.

I maintain that the investment in highways is a colossal waste of money if we are not also investing to at least the same level in transit infrastructure, which here and now necessarily means rail. If the as-yet unbuilt Hanlon industrial park were to connect to rail, which could be accomplished for the cost of one or two interchanges on the highway, the highway improvements would have a net long term benefit. The rail access would allow businesses to come to this industrial park to get material out of their trucks and onto the tracks, not just move it between trucks. I am all for road infrastructure improvements that help people and businesses get off the roads, but against highways for the sake of highways. Similarly, if passenger service were restored to the line between Guelph and Hamilton, some of the car pressures on Highway 6, which runs parallel to the nearly unused tracks for the entire affected area, would be reduced.

I found out just yesterday that there is an environmental assessment public information centre on Tuesday the 28th from 5-8pm at the Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon discussing upgrades to Maltby Rd, which would be an ideal right of way to connect the Guelph Junction Railway to the Hanlon industrial parks with minimal cost or disruption. Tracks could easily run on the edge of the road within its right of way.

With the recession coming very much as I predicted a couple of years ago, dead-end highway projects like the Halon may finally be put on hold. Given half a moment of reflection, if we are going to go into deficit to finance infrastructure and create jobs, then we should be doing so in such a way as to have high capacity, low environmental impact, low cost transportation solutions running at the other end of the recession. It remains my belief that our existing road system would be adequate if we invested properly in rail transportation rather than heavily subsidising roads while leaving rail to fend for itself.

The reality is, though, that we will continue to rip up rails in Canada and build highways nearby. This week, work began in ripping out the Kinghorn subdivision, a 195-mile railway line that was abandoned in 2005 connecting Longlac to Thunder Bay. The track itself was primarily used as a detour route in the event of problems in northern Ontario, but its removal demonstrates that we, collectively, have still not learned our lesson in rail removal. While difficult to prove, I believe Canada remains one of the few countries, if not the only one, left in the entire world still ripping out more railway lines than we are putting in.

Earlier this week, the first federal leader of a party to meaningfully recognise this reality and put it in a platform, was pushed out of the leadership of his party in a victory of politics over policy. The Liberal platform this past election included huge sums for infrastructure, and a plan to ban the removal of railway lines like the Kinghorn sub. While this horse has largely left the barn, the Kinghorn sub demonstrates that it is never too late to close this barn door.

This leads me to my next point, which is about the leadership of the Liberal party.

We should have rules handed down soon about the structure and length of the third Liberal leadership race in recent years within a few days. While pithy, Jamie's assessment is bang on and I hope some of the suggestions in his post are reflected in the rules.

Personally, I would like to see 50% of all donations to each leadership campaign be handed over to the party in lieu of a deposit, and no spending cap coupled with a ban on coming out with any debt whatsoever. We need a leader capable of fundraising as much as any other skill, and that is one way to weed out poor fundraisers. The debt lesson is a hard learned one as some of the last round of leadership candidates still have not finished paying theirs off, and I would suggest that to enforce such a no debt requirement, any candidate who still has outstanding leadership debt by the time they reach the convention be excluded from the ballot.

And on the topic of enforcement, you can read my latest presentation, this one to the Guelph Police Services Board on Thursday the 16th on behalf of the Community Volunteer Patrol, an organisation you should get involved with.

And by the way, why do so many drivers not normally get winter tires that requiring them in one province could cause such a massive shortage?

elections environment guelph highways leadership money musings politics transit 1155 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:35 on October 24, 2008

Bloc, NDP, Conservatives against democratic debate

Three of four federal parties already in the leadership debate won't participate in it if Elizabeth May is allowed in. The Green Party has fulfilled all of the arbitrary requirements to participate in the debate, but the broadcast consortium responsible for organising them has allowed three parties to veto a decision that is not theirs to make.

I, for one, wish Elizabeth May luck in her now inevitable court challenge to get in to the debate. Even though I have no intention of voting for a party that pushes to change the electoral system to get in the back door of parliament, I believe it is the right of the leader of any serious party to attend televised leaders debates as a participant. The federal Greens have a slate, a platform, and a member of parliament. The time for excuses is at an end.

elections leadership 150 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 20:29 on September 08, 2008

Municipal tax revenue issue has been very badly framed

If it were up to me, every politician in the country would be forced to read a copy of Warren Kinsella's book, "The War Room" before being allowed to seek office. Getting an accurate message out early and clearly is terribly important, lest your opponents define the issues for you. Locally, this is evidenced by a raging debate over a proposed 6.5% "tax increase" for 2009 in Guelph. As I argue in today's column, with ever rising propertly value and the end of MPAC's evaluation freeze, calling this a tax increase is at minimum a misnomer. Had it been phrased, far more accurately, as: "We anticipate that tax revenues will rise approximately 6.5% on rising property values, which is in line with our increased costs", the necessary rise in revenue would be logical rather than controversial.

I don't know my exact tax rate right now. My tax bill does not show my taxes as a percentage of property value, which is something that should be corrected. Based on my total tax bill (municipal + education) for this year, and my property evaluation, my effective tax rate for 2008 appears to be 1.36%. With MPAC's evaluation freeze gone, I can expect my house to rise as much in value on MPAC's rolls as it has on the open market. Based on that and a conservative estimate of what my house will be worth under this year's MPAC numbers, and a 6.5% increase in how much the municipality needs from me to provide me its services, my tax rate should drop to 1.21%.

You know what that is? It is a tax cut of 12% for 2009. And that's ignoring population (taxbase) growth, which would make that cut even more dramatic. If we had never had the evaluation freeze, our evaluations would have been rising at about the same speed as our tax revenue demands for the last few years, and that trend would be continuing. Is that not what sound fiscal management by our city leadership is?

There seems to be a feeling among some residents that tax revenue should never go up. Had we instituted such a policy, say, 30 years ago, what services could we still afford as a city? Our population was somewhere around half its current size and the city's tax revenue would be a fraction what it is today, but today's city would still have today's demands. Would we have a municipal water system, with our 30-year-old tax revenue freeze? Not likely, that's increasingly expensive as we overburden the water table that feeds us. How about a police force? Well, there's the provincial police nearby... Fire service? What's the point, we don't have any water. Trash collection? Forget it! Potholes? Leave them there, they're the best part of the roads that have not been upgraded since 1978! City Library? Well, we'd need to keep that so people could read about what the City was like before people got the idea that it could function without any tax revenue.

It seems to me that the people demanding no tax revenue increases whatsoever are the same people who complain bitterly when their city parks are not maintained, potholes are not filled, or community-damaging developments are not approved. There is this disconnect prevalent where people fail to understand that the purpose of a tax is to allow our city, and our society, to function. It is how we pool our ever increasing shared costs. Taxes are not a sinkhole into which our money falls, never to be seen again. Taxes, as unpleasant as they are to pay, are the grease that keeps our society moving. I pay my taxes with the same pride with which I use the services they provide me.

When people demand that the city "sharpen their pencils" and look for numerous small cuts to the budget, what they are really asking is for services to be cut. But ask which ones should be cut, and suddenly they go very very quiet. More importantly, even if we were to cut our services by, say, 10% this year, the cost for the remaining services will still rise by however many percent next year and we will be in the same place we are today, with fewer services to show for it.

The proposal from staff is to raise revenues by 6.5% to keep up with expenses rising at the same rate, they are not proposing to raise our tax rates.

Anyway, today's column.

Municipal tax a function of value

Are city staff proposing to raise taxes by 6.5 per cent, or are they proposing to raise revenue by 6.5 per cent? There is an important distinction.

As our property values continue to rise throughout Guelph, our taxes as a percentage of our property value may in fact be dropping. Federal and provincial tax revenues rise as the economy grows, yet no one claims that those taxes went up. Tax rates on income and spending remain the same, but the value of the economy rises, and so do the revenues and costs associated with providing tax-supported services.

Outside my home in south-end Guelph I have a passable road. It was kept clear of snow through the winter. It is equipped with a sewer system. My trash was collected last week and will be again tomorrow. Potable water flows into my home. Police patrol and firefighters respond to my neighbourhood.

There is a well-maintained public park across the street from me. City buses now pass three times per hour.

What do all these things have in common?

They all require the use of motor vehicles. All of those vehicles require fuel. All that fuel has to be paid for. And, of course, the cost of fuel has gone up as much for the municipal government as for the rest of us. Why, then, are some citizens upset at the city for proposing to increase tax revenue by 6.5 per cent for 2009 to keep up these services?

Have our personal expenses gone up any less? The price of fuel has more than doubled over the last few years while the price of crude has quadrupled. Food prices are flying. The cost of a home in Guelph has shot up dramatically, my own rising approximately 50 per cent in value since I bought it in 2002. Our expenses are rising faster than our income. We know this. It is the precursor of what may be a serious recession.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)'s 2006 property evaluation freeze is now over. Our homes will be reassessed by MPAC and our 2009 taxes will be based on these new assessments. The assessed value of many of our homes will skyrocket. That may allow our tax rate to drop as a percentage of the value of our property. If expenses go up but our tax rate drops it could be argued that our council is actually remarkably fiscally responsible.

The newspapers illustrate annual tax numbers by showing a hypothetical dollar value rise for each resident, rather than showing those same numbers as a percentage of our ever-rising property values. Our federal and provincial tax revenues also rise in dollars, but their rates do not.

We should be measuring our municipal taxes on that same basis -- as a tax rate rather than as a dollar value.

If, after considering this real measure of our increased wealth and obligations, we still wish to lower our taxes, then we each have to do our own part. We cannot expect the municipal government do it all.

Rather than complain, we can do lots of little things to lower taxes by the honest measure of municipal taxes as a percentage of our city's value. Here are a few ideas:

For one, drive less. As a car owner, I am as tempted to use my car as anyone else, but have been disciplining myself to make more frequent use of city buses, VIA Rail, and my bicycle. Roads are the single biggest expense we have, a free service that costs a lot. Road and boulevard maintenance and construction alone amounts to around half of this year's budget increase, and accounts for some $40 million per year of the city's budget.

Use less water. This could reduce the number of new wells the city needs to drill, and the amount of water that needs to be treated on the way into and out of our homes.

Organize trash so that the trucks don't have to stop every 15 metres, saving time and fuel. We could perhaps have our recycling and compost collected only every second week, as our clear bags are.

Get involved constructively. Identify where you feel the city is spending too much and suggest alternatives.

If you do not want your property taxes to increase as fast as your other expenses, identify which city services and what city infrastructure you would rather do without, and see if others agree. This is something we can do together as citizens of Guelph.

Consider the true ramifications of tax revenues not keeping up with the services the City of Guelph provides.

The city's expenses are going up as fast as our own, and we need only look to ourselves for the solutions.

To paraphrase former U.S. president John F. Kennedy's inaugural address: ask not what your city can do for you -- ask what you can do for your city.

columns guelph leadership money 1580 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 13:32 on July 09, 2008

Liberals don't know how to oppose and Conservatives don't know how to govern

To a Conservative, governing means three things: destroy the nation's finances by cutting taxes to below the government's spending, attack basic privacy of citizens, and throw all of our money at the military, an organisation that they seem to believe will at some point say "ok, we have enough now." To a Liberal, being in opposition means allowing the government to govern while proposing to Canadians the alternatives that they could have had juxtaposed against each Conservative policy, on the rare occasion that one exists. We see it again now with the proposed Greenshift.

Whatever you think of the Greenshift concept, the fact is that Stéphane Dion and the Liberal opposition is taking its role as a "government in waiting" more seriously than any predecessor opposition ever has. While the Conservatives use an oil spill as their environmental mascot, the Liberals are putting forward detailed new policy that would change the way we do business as a country. Canadians are, by and large, of the opinion that the environment is a serious issue that needs addressing and the Greenshift concept takes the best of both a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system to begin to prepare to start to do something about it.

The fact that people are complaining that some particularly egregious environmental behaviour will become more expensive to do shows exactly why this is the way forward. If using unclean energy costs more, then people will use unclean energy less, a result tacitly admitted by the opponents of the Greenshift. The gradual but relentless increase in cost will give people time to start considering their alternatives as their bills begin to rise faster than their taxes are cut for some activities. In essence, the Greenshift gives Canadians an opportunity to put our money where our collective mouths are.

The Conservative Party of Canada, our current opposition-in-waiting, continues to brand Stéphane Dion as "not a leader" which is increasingly showing itself to be patently false. No previous opposition leader has ever led the country and our national debate the way Dion has managed to. The Conservatives themselves have shown no leadership whatsoever on any file. Even on the Residential School apology, Harper admitted to the entire country that it was brought about by the NDP's leadership on the matter, not his own, before turning around and putting in policy to address concerns about the apology raised by CPC MP Pierre Poilievre.

To cap it off, Dion has challenged Harper to have a televised "adult" debate on the Green Shift. No doubt Mr. Harper will be in a great hurry to take up the challenge and defend his record on leadership and the environment.

environment leadership politics 457 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 13:56 on June 23, 2008

Thoughts on meeting Elizabeth May

On Monday, I joined fellow members of the Guelph Mercury's Community Editorial Board in an hour-long interview with Green Party leader Elizabeth May, her predecessor Jim Harris, and local Green candidate Mike Nagy.

With 12 people in the room, 7 of which were asking questions, no single one of us had a lot of time to ask much. Elizabeth May proved herself very adept at answering questions in sufficient detail to keep follow-ups to a minimum, while making the questioner feel like their question was being taken seriously.

The purpose of her trip to Guelph, she said in her opening remarks, is two-fold. One reason is to get Mike Nagy elected as the MP in Guelph when our by-election shows up. The other is to get Elizabeth May a spot in the federal election debates during the next election. I agree with one of these two goals.

She took several jabs at our electoral system, advocating for proportional representation, during her opening remarks and in answers to several questions. When I got my chance to ask my questions, I went after this issue. First, I asked, does she believe that our politics work because of, or in spite of, political parties? Without reservation, she said that our politics indeed work in spite of political parties. So I asked, why, then, do you support proportional representation, which enhances the role of the party? She said that proportional representation reduces partisanship because everyone can vote the way they want. I asked her why she wouldn't support a compromise position like preferential balloting? To this, she did not disagree, but said what she would like to see is a nation-wide Citizens Assembly with the result being a two-part ballot. One: do we want to change our electoral system, and two: if so, which of these systems would you prefer? She said the MMP proposal in Ontario failed because people were getting caught up in the details of the proposal, rather than the concept.

I had more questions on other matters, but the time did not allow for much else. She did assure the room that about half of her travel around the country is by train, with all internal Ontario travel being that way, and said that the Green Party plans to lease a train from Via Rail in the next election to do the first rail-based campaign in Canada in generations. This is a concept I support and would like to see all parties do. Support for our rail system needs to be a non-partisan issue.

Another interesting bit of the meeting was when Mike Nagy, in explaining why the Green Party should be taken seriously for the leadership debate, commented that the Green Party is "not accountable" for the federal funding they receive because they don't have a seat. I don't think it was entirely what he meant, but it's an interesting point. The Green Party does receive $1.82 of federal funding per year per vote they received in the last election, which gives them about a million tax-dollars per year to operate their party.

More interesting to me was when friend and fellow community editorial board member and blogger Cam Guthrie, a local Conservative, asked Are you ticked that Stephane Dion stole your Carbon Tax platform? Her answer was as unequivocal as it was enlightening. No, she said, she is thrilled. More parties and more people should steal the Green Party's platform. She said that after their last policy convention, the Green Party distributed their policies to all the other parties with a cover letter inviting them and encouraging them to adopt the policies as their own. It is this role as a party of ideas and not one of power that makes the Green party relevant in Canada. But I wonder if their idealism will remain once they have seats in the House, or if partisanship will prevail as it has so completely for the Green's predecessor protest party, the New Democratic Party. If their push for a back-door into the House of Commons is anything to go by, partisanship will indeed prevail.

She took a lot of swipes at Stephen Harper for his made-in-Washington policies and at Jack Layton for putting partisanship before principle while defending Stephane Dion, during the interview. She said that in Dion's one year as environment minister, he did more than anyone else on that file. She worked with him in her days at the Sierra Club and seemed to have a lot of respect for him. She commented that she told Dion that he was her second choice for Prime Minister, to which she said he responded, "oh, who is your first?" "Me, of course". "Oh, ok then." She also expressed surprise that Dion was willing to go along with her suggestion of following the long tradition of leader's courtesy in not running someone against her in Central Nova.

Not surprisingly, Mike Nagy answered the question about what the important local issues will be by discussing environmental issues. He noted, for example, that Guelph has one of the highest concentrations of ground-level ozone in the country, and that Asthma has risen to a rate of 1 in 4 children locally. Indeed.

May also stirred a little post-interview controversy by commenting that she was ready to slit her wrists by the end of the last leaders' debate, something that others clearly found more offensive than I did. Politicians and hyperbole are virtually synonymous, and it did get her point across about how bland and pre-packaged leaders' debates have become.

I'm hoping the video, audio, or transcript of the whole meeting is posted soon. In the meantime, coverage of this meeting is here:
- Guelph 'vibrant green' (Guelph Mercury article)
- Green leader ready for prime time (Guelph Mercury editorial)
- . . . then again, maybe not (Guelph Mercury editorial)
- Greens hope for by-election success (Guelph Mercury video)
- Demanding fairness (Guelph Mercury video)
- Too colourful for prime time? (Guelph Mercury blog)
- Interview with Green Party Leader - Elizabeth May! (Cam Guthrie - Green Guelph)
- Elizabeth May "out of bounds" (Christian Conservative, based on second-hand accounts)

environment guelph leadership reform 1031 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:28 on May 28, 2008

The oft-missed point

Why is it that every time the Conservatives bend to accommodate the Liberal position, it is portrayed by bloggers and the media as Dion folding?

Dion won on Afghanistan. Dion won on the budget. But in spite of this, people don't see it for what it is: a man of principle forcing his opponent's hand. I don't know if it is caused by too many latent leadership ambitions, or simply by people who think politics should be about adversity and about power rather than about policy or principle.

The Conservative party put forward a motion calling for an indefinite Iraqesque war in Afghanistan and asserted that the motion would be a confidence vote. The Liberals responded with an alternative motion and, after some deliberation, the Conservatives met them in the middle. How is the Conservative government backing down from its position and an assertion of a confidence vote based on that position anything but a win for the Liberals under Dion?

Similarly, in yesterday's budget, Flaherty offered nothing of substance to anyone other than one more gift to the well-off with the Registered Tax-Free Savings Account, only useful to those who don't need it. It is full of pitifully small short term investments, but it introduces little of any substance. If the Conservatives were confident that the Liberals were going to support the budget no matter what, it would have been a full-on, big spending, tax cutting, deficit-generating Conservative budget like their last two. The reality is that they did not have that confidence, and they were forced to provide a largely meaningless budget. How is it a loss for the Liberals when the Conservatives have to, yet again, bend to the Liberals?

I agree with the assertion that Canadians don't want an election, however people are largely misinterpreting this statement. It isn't that people don't want to go to the polls. Quite the contrary, I would argue. Many people are itching to give their party a majority. The problem is nearly everyone acknowledges that if we go into an election right now, the parliament we will get at the other end will be remarkably similar to the one we have, barring unforeseen RCMP investigation announcements, and so the question becomes: what's the point? There won't be a general appetite for an election until Canadians come to the conclusion that it will actually change the status quo in parliament.

In short, I think Canadians are tired of minority governments, but have not decided who to give the reins of power to. As long as Liberals continue to fail to recognise Dion's leadership for what it is -- true leadership, rather than dictatorship, a concept Canadians are so unfamiliar with that they no longer recognise it -- we will continue to be in this national political limbo.

leadership politics 469 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:04 on February 27, 2008

The new Rat Pack?

The last time we had a federal Conservative government, the Liberals presented a fierce opposition through the so-called Rat Pack, consisting of Don Boudria, John Nunziata, Brian Tobin, and Sheila Copps. With the Conservative party's election finance activities in constant question, do we have a new ratpack forming? I put it to you that we do, consisting of Ralph Goodale, Mark Holland, Michael Ignatieff, and Marlene Jennings.

I exclude Dion here deliberately because his questioning on this topic is not particularly effective. He should be concentrating on matters of substance and governance, while leaving the assault on the governing party to the new Rat Pack. That said, Harper's treatment of Dion on the issue is disrespectful and ignores generations of parliamentary tradition. The Prime Minister rarely answers Dion's questions in question period, leaving it to one of his (air)bag men, Peter Van Loan, although he does not hesitate to answer Jack Layton.

leadership politics 156 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 15:14 on October 26, 2007

Stéphane Dion's honour

Why are there rumblings in the party about weakness in the most visionary and gutsy leader of any party in recent memory? Dion's decision to not run a Liberal against Elizabeth May is honourable at the highest level and shows that Dion, alone among all the leaders of all the parties, puts his country before his party. Jack Layton is a hero to his party for giving us a Conservative government. Harper is a hero to his for being in power while out-spending the most spendy of governments, and Gilles Duceppe, by definition, does not put his country before his party.

Canada has languished in its recent past, lacking any form of vision and falling behind much of the world in technology and foresight. We pay more than anyone else on the planet for cell phone service while having poorer service than much of the third world. We now build the poorest quality, most fuel inefficient cars on the planet, yet complain that the Asian markets don't want them. We have one of the worst public transit systems in the world, where there is not one single form of public transit that will allow someone to commute from the large city of Guelph to the larger city of Kitchener, just 15 miles away, yet we pour billions of dollars into our highway networks and subsidise the auto and aviation industries.

Then one day a leader comes along with a vision for the future where we can begin to address these failings in the backwater and increasingly irrelevant country of Canada. He is not particularly charismatic and he does not say things just to appease those interested far more by power than by the future of the country in his party, but he represents a future in which our biggest national issues are relevant to our future and not the disposition of our constitution. All the power in the world is not useful if you cannot live in your environment.

The electoral coalition between Dion and May, even if it only encompasses a single riding, is something I had been hoping for. Nobody loses anything by the Liberals not running in Central Nova, or by the Greens not running in St. Laurent-Cartierville. Both stand to gain, although Elizabeth May and the Greens more than the Liberals.

This action frees up the Liberals to support Elizabeth May in Central Nova and allows the local resources of two parties to work together to bring down Peter Mackay, one of the most dishonourable federal politicians in this country whose very presence in government owes to blatant dishonesty with his written lie to David Orchard. After the leadership convention I posted a suggested cabinet for a Dion government, and put Elizabeth May in as Minister of the Environment. I am very happy to see that this is indeed the path we seem to be travelling.

With the electoral system we have, we would do well to form more such electoral coalitions across the country. The Green party is no longer an insignificant player in Canada and must be taken seriously if our own green agenda is ever to come to pass. In ridings where there is a risk of a Conservative winning with anything less than an absolute majority of the vote, it is incumbent upon those of us not falling off the spectrum on the far right to work together to bring in a left wing MP in those ridings. I beg you not to infer from this statement that I would support that most insulting of electoral systems in proportional representation.

The NDP is a long lost cause, putting its own electoral fortunes and party's power well ahead of anything resembling the national interest. In this respect the NDP is worse even than the Conservatives and the respect I had for it a few years ago when Pierre Ducasse made his phenomenal speech at the NDP convention is utterly gone. This party needs to whither and die before it completely destroys what is left of the left in Canada.

The Liberals and the Greens, both centrist parties that merely have different balances of left and right must work together to keep the enlightened in power and the Machiavellians, of which the Liberals certainly have their share, out. The future and the country is more important than the party's tradition of running a candidate in every riding. The country is more important than the party.

Stéphane Dion has my full and continued support.

leadership politics 752 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:06 on April 13, 2007

What's Iggy up to?

Michael Ignatieff appeared to take his surprise (to him) defeat at the convention in stride, doing the traditional 'I make this vote unanimous' bit after being defeated by Stéphane Dion, but a few little things since then have got me scratching my head.

First off, the Monday after the convention, CBC aired live footage as the victorious Dion returned to Ottawa and gave his first speech to caucus. He had with him all the other candidates from the convention, and in question period he gave as many of them as he could an opportunity to ask questions. That bit is all fine and very much sent the message the party needed to hear..

At the time I made mental note of the fact that everyone was applauding and cheering Dion except Michael Ignatieff, who entered not far behind Dion waving and smiling to caucus as if he had been the winner, rather than applauding the party's duly elected new leader. I didn't think too much of it at the time, I just thought it was part of Michael Ignatieff's political inexperience and his personality.

Then today, in the mail, my wife and I each received an innocuous looking envelope from Michael Ignatieff, MP. In it is a simple bulk holiday greeting card with his printed signature.

On the surface it is a nice gesture, but I would expect an MP seeking re-election to concentrate his efforts on his own riding -- unless he has another agenda.

What, then, is his agenda?

At a guess, he is setting himself up for a leadership run next time around. Another losing candidate did that. His name was Paul Martin.

This article noted by Take Off, Eh? seems to suggest that I'm not the only one with this thought on my mind.

It takes cooperation by all sides to have unity. Unity is not, by definition, brought on from above. I hope Iggy lives up to his rhetoric and works with the new leadership to rebuild the party, not against it. His personal ambitions are not important for the future of the country and they should not be allowed to get in the way.

leadership 364 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 19:36 on December 14, 2006

A future Liberal cabinet

With Dion now the leader of the Liberal party, a lot of informal discussion has been taking place about what a cabinet might look like under him. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Prime Minister - Stéphane Dion

Minister of Public Works and Government Services - Gerard Kennedy

Minister of Agriculture - David Orchard

Minister of Foreign Affairs - Bob Rae

Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs - Michael Ignatieff

Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency - Scott Brison

Minister of Heritage and the Status of Women - Martha Hall Findlay - Deserves a senior role in cabinet but needs some government experience. This is a good place for her to start.

Minister of Finance - Ralph Goodale

Leader of the Government in the House - Marlene Jennings

Minister of the Environment - Elizabeth May - With Dion as the leader, the Green party would do well to run under the Liberal banner.

President of the Treasury Board - John MacCallum

Minister of Defense - Romeo Dallaire - In spite of being a senator -- Who better? The opposition would have a great deal of difficulty criticising this appointment.

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development - Ken Dryden - Where he can continue to pursue national daycare and other social initiatives.

Minister of Health - Carolyn Bennett - A medical doctor.

Minister of National Revenue - Lucienne Robillard

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness - Bryon Wilfort

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans - Maurizio Bevilacqua - Not really sure where else to put him.

Minister of Industry - Belinda Stronach - Used to run a major, successful industrial company.

Minister of Immigration - Joe Volpe - In spite of his campaign blunders and weak image, it is probably important to keep him involved.

Government Whip - Hedy Fry

Denis Coderre, future MP Marva Wisdom, Mark Holland, Ruby Dhalla, Ujjal Dosanj, and others would also likely deserve roles within such a cabinet.

This is hardly a comprehensive list, it's just my first round of thoughts on the matter. Who would you put where? What would you change? I'd like to hear.

leadership 358 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 19:50 on December 04, 2006

Dion's leadership begins in earnest

Dion just gave a brief speech to his caucus, televised on NewsWorld, and I just have to say... Michael Ignatieff is standing near him looking both proud and happy. I, too, am proud and happy. Not only am I proud of Stéphane Dion for winning and immediately extending his hand to his opponents in this race, but for his opponents taking that hand and agreeing to work together sincerely and without reservation. Watch out folks, the Grits are well and truly united.

leadership 87 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 15:16 on December 04, 2006

Brison's Hat Trick

Prentice, Rae, Ignatieff.

leadership 6 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 05:07 on December 03, 2006

From the inside of a flash mob

Every hour or so, a large group of supporters for one candidate or another appears to spontaneously explode in the main lobby area of the convention. The best term for these I have heard so far is "flash mob".

The first one I saw was one for Martha Hall Findlay which came upon a forming Dion one Wednesday morning. As Martha approached, the Dion chant changed from "Dion! Dion!" to "Martha! Dion!".

Bob Rae's chant is "We want Bob" which, from a distance, sounds distinctly like "We want pot! We want pot!"

Michael Ignatieff's name appears to be the hardest to come up with a good chant for. "Michael! Michael! Michael!" gets old pretty quickly, so the campaign has adapted a soccer chant "ole ole ole! mich-eal! mich-eal!" which is quite sustainable and very distinct.

Today at 13:00 we gathered for a Dion flash mob outside the Timmies on the ground floor. Dion's campaign has a fairly wide variety of slogans going, some of which are better than others.

The best so far is an alternating set of people saying "Stephane!" and "Dion!". Because each person is only shouting half the time, it takes a little longer for the flash mob participants' voices to go hoarse and we can actually breathe, resulting in a sustained chant.

At this particular flash mob, though, the Dion folks came up with something rather novel -- using Ignatieff's soccer chant to sing "Stephane...stephane-stephane-stephane, Dionnnnnnn, Dionnnnnn."

Dion's chants also include "unité!" which, unfortunately, comes across as "U S A" from a distance.

Our flash mob waited for Dion's arrival and took off up the escalator en masse for the main floor, where we covered the main lobby area of the convention before taking off down the hall toward the far end, chanting there for a while, returning to the main area, and climbing another escalator toward a top floor campaign room.

Right now, as I write this, the first Kennedy flash mob that I've seen is working through the convention shouting what, for the life of me, sounds like "Stephen Harper!" though I am told that it is actually "GK all the way" and "Kennedy maintenant". In print it sounds easy enough to tell apart, but you ought to try it from here!

leadership 385 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 19:50 on December 01, 2006

Dion unleashes his letter writing capability on unsuspecting rival

Stéphane Dion has written an open letter clarifying the debate over Quebec's nationhood for all us normal people. His open letters to Lucien Bouchard following the referendum last decade were some of the most intelligent, thought out arguments made against separatism and the absurdity of the separatist position, and he is applying this same mighty-pen approach to Ignatieff's political insanity of wanting to reopen the constitutional debate.

The Ignatieff folks are not thrilled, but that is alright with me.

I believe even mentioning the constitution with Boisclair ahead in the polls in Quebec is a suicidally bad idea. A Canada under Ignatieff discussing the constitution with a Quebec under Boisclair ought to lead to just the kind of debate the separatists want to launch a referendum campaign and send Quebec's economy into a tailspin the likes of which has not been seen since, well, the last time the PQ was in power.

The Kennedion alliance brewing should ensure that this does not become a serious issue for the time being, at any rate. Kennedy and Dion working together can easily defeat Ignatieff or Rae at the convention and, as numerous bloggers have pointed out, each one's political strengths are the other's weaknesses so as a leadership tag-team it doesn't get much better for the Liberals or for the country. Dion is the unity candidate in every sense of the word.

leadership politics 239 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 12:31 on October 26, 2006

Elizabeth May to run in London, but not Bob Rae?

Elizabeth May, the charismatic and cheerful new leader of the Green party, is going to run in London North Centre, the riding recently vacated by Liberal Joe Fontana to run for Mayor of London. But where's Bob Rae? This is his chance to prove a few points.

May has managed to make Jack Layton look like he can't find a camera, lately. Every time I turn on any kind of political program, there is Elizabeth May's big smile from Question Period (the CTV one) between John Godfrey and Nathan Cullen, to cutting a tree down on the Rick Mercer Report. Now it appears that she is running in the riding of London North Centre. I doubt any of the other parties will decline to run in the riding to honour the long-standing tradition of not opposing an out-of-House leader coming in through a by-election, but you've got to hand it to her for trying.

Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, and to a lesser extent Martha Hall Findlay... where are they? This is the opportunity of a life time, especially for Bob Rae.

His two greatest weaknesses are that 1) he doesn't have a seat in the House, and 2) people do not trust his ability to win in Ontario.

Why, then, is he passing up this opportunity to change both? Imagine the strength of his position at the convention were he to show up, freshly elected with a seat, and not only that, but one in Ontario!

I have to assume that the risk of failure is too great for him. The by-election is just two days before the start of the convention in Montreal. The strength he would gain by coming to the convention with a seat would be just as strong as a negative if he were to show up having just lost the by-election, especially to Elizabeth May. But if he can not win, should we not all know that now, before the leadership vote? Is it not in Bob Rae's own interest, the man who has told us he will work for the party whether he wins or loses, to either prove or disprove his capabilities as an individual politician in this party before his potential ascension to the leadership?

I therefore put the challenge out to all three un-elected leadership contenders, but particularly Bob Rae, who has both the most to gain and the most to lose, to run in London-North Centre and prove that your commitment to the Liberal party's parliamentary success spans beyond your aspirations as its leader: run in London North Centre.

leadership 439 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 22:59 on October 22, 2006

Debate #2,871: Montreal

Since the Toronto debate last weekend I've come down with pneumonia, of all useful things, and haven't had much energy to post anything while being mostly bed-ridden. I watched this afternoon's debate and have only a few thoughts on it.

First off, I found it difficult to follow. I don't know if it was just because I am sick, but it just felt less organised than previous debates. It was in Montreal, mostly in French, but some candidates changed languages so often that by the time I had the channel changed (SAP on Rogers still has YTV...ugh) it was time to change back again.

Is it just me or did the last debate, between Ignatieff, Kennedy, and Findlay, get twice as much time as the others and a bonus question?

I have mixed feelings about Dion's closing comments. I am a die-hard Dion supporter, but I have to admit, I didn't really like the tone. The debate should be a positive one, even if saying negative things in a positive way. I agree with his point that he is the one that comes without baggage, but that should perhaps be the opening to the speech rather than or as well as the closing. I'm not sure, anyway, I may have misinterpreted it through a coughing spell.

A lot of candidates carried on in French until they hit brick walls, then switched to English. Some of the candidates, most notably Kennedy - more for his statistical standing than for the relative quality of his French compared to the other unilingual candidates - caused me to nearly cringe when they spoke. The French of some of these people is downright painful.

In the same vein, what a few people have said is true. Dion's English is much better than any of the other's French. Rae confidently misuses words (most notably 'dur', something I complained about Elizabeth May doing at the French Green party debate some months ago, albeit with a different misuse of the same word), while others spend so much effort trying to speak French they are unable to make any kind of point.

Somehow, I don't expect this debate to truly be the last. I would really like to see a debate between Ignatieff, Rae, Dion, and Kennedy exclusively, configured as an election leadership debate would be with real debating actively encouraged and allowed.

leadership politics 397 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 02:52 on October 21, 2006

The Toronto debate

Sunday's debate in Toronto was quite the entertainment. The clear winner of the debate was Martha Hall Findlay who, with one word, brought the house down.

But this debate has been extensively covered by just about every blog on Canadian soil so I won't rehash it yet again.

The debate took place in Toronto the same day as the Toronto Marathon, so, concerned about parking, I parked much further from Roy Thompson Hall than I needed to. We headed up there and arrived about an hour early, working our way to the Dion table inside of the building. We picked up an armload of stickers, flyers, and other paraphernalia, and went back outside and stood next to a gaggle of Rae supporters handing out Dion flyers. I don't get the impression there are very many people left who are undecided, though.

During the debate, Dion went on the offensive, ripping Rae apart, who turned around and ripped Ignatieff apart, while Kennedy did his best to stay out of dodge. It was fun to watch. The energy level in the room was tremendous. The whole room reacted to everything that was said. At the debate in London a few weeks ago, there was constant polite applause, but nothing like this.

I thought it was interesting that Dion got the question on the environment, Ignatieff got the question on foreign affairs, and Brison got the question on gay marriage. The fits were often perfect.

Dion's English has often been criticised through this campaign, though I'm not too concerned by it. As Allan Bonner said on Politics yesterday, if Canada can get used to Chrétien, we can get used to anyone. Dion's English is merely French with English words. Quite understandable, if a little strange for people who don't speak both. "You don't know of what you speak," he said at one point. No-one has any doubt what this means, in spite of criticisms, and it is even easier to understand when you realise it is a literal translation of "tu ne sais pas de quoi tu parles."

After the debate, which was attended by a true who's who of Ottawa politics and punditry, we headed up to the pub where Dion's after-debate party was being held. We found a table with a couple of spots open, and grabbed seats, striking up conversation with the other occupants of the table.

One of them eventually left, and the other turned out to be fellow blogger A View from the Left.

Eventually Dion came in and shouted out a few words to the room, but we were too far to make them out. Shortly thereafter a camera and reporter came in, and it soon became apparent that it was This Hour has 22 Minutes. I'm curious what they're going to do to the clip they took there.

Later on, I met another fellow blogger, BC Undecided, who assures me that Undecided does not refer to the race. We talked for a while and then on my way out I met Jason Cherniak.

All round a pretty interesting day!

leadership politics 516 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:43 on October 17, 2006

From dog days to doggone debates

The Alter Boys have come up with a great scheme to help Stéphane Dion and his dog Kyoto take on the intensity-based hot air output of the tory government, Iggy wants to go step on another landmine, and the municipal election is heating up.

leadership musings politics 348 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 03:59 on October 13, 2006

I take it back, Iggy couldn't win an election

Michael Ignatieff hadn't gaffed for a while. I thought maybe, just maybe, he was learning from his early mistakes. But I suppose the two month gaffe timer was up.

Don Newman on Politics reports that Ignatieff referred to Israeli actions in Lebanon earlier this year as a war crime on a TV show in Quebec over the weekend, costing him Thornhill MP Susan Kadis' support for his leadership.

To me it is not so much the issue of Ignatieff calling Israel's actions war crimes. I can deal with that opinion. It's the constant changing of opinion that worries me. His office apparently immediately issued a clarification, stating that while he had prefixed his comment that Israel's actions were war crimes with a reminder of his expertise in international law, he didn't really mean it that way. Way to take a principled position and stick to it.

He started off by commenting that he wasn't losing any sleep over the fate of the Lebanese. It was probably quite honest, I'm sure he was sleeping just fine, as were most people not directly involved in the conflict. But it is still a dumb and insensitive thing to say.

After having a weird disagreement with his campaign chief over the reason for his extended absence to Eastern Europe during the crisis, he noticed that the comment about losing sleep was not going over well. Oops, better retract it. Now he is going off the other end. Instead of showing reckless disrespect for the Lebanese side of the conflict, he is calling the Israelis war criminals. In so doing he has managed to piss off both sides, rather than neither, and that is hardly a leadership skill worth rewarding.

Liberals must not elect this gaffe-prone time bomb as our leader if we hope ever to win an election. Crashing haphazardly from gaffe to gaffe through a federal election campaign would be fatal for the party and is something we truly cannot afford. Did we not learn anything from the disaster that was Paul Martin, whose name no-one even dares mention any more? Have we not had enough of "oops"-based policy?

While the Ignatieff supporters who have gone blind with faith in their holy leader will dismiss this as just the machinations of a supporter of another leader, I urge those whose minds continue to be open to seriously think about the ramifications of Ignatieff as a leader come the next federal election, almost certainly just around the corner from the convention.

Those wishing to prop up Ignatieff at the cost of others will state that Dion gaffed by not voting in the opposition motion compelling the government to meet its Kyoto targets, ignoring the resounding success of that vote, Dion's prior obligations, and his presence at the parliamentary committee meeting on the same day grilling Rona Ambrose. These same people will probably also call Bob Rae's skinny dipping on the Mercer Report yesterday a gaffe equal to his proportions. Really, though, it was a hilarious and totally harmless stunt.

It can be acceptable to gaffe in a campaign, once. Apologise with a sincere smile and move on, or possibly even stick to your principled guns. From what I have seen, more damage is created reacting to a gaffe than is normally created by making one in the first place.

Those considering supporting Ignatieff should pause and think: is drunken lurching from gaffe to gaffe really what we want in a leader, no matter what his intellectual credentials?

leadership politics 592 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 22:50 on October 11, 2006

The front-runners: All could be Prime Minister, given time

What do Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, and Gerard Kennedy have in common? All of them would have a very tough time winning the next federal election, though I would do my very best to help any one of them try!

Bob Rae, a brilliant left wing thinker and experienced politician could probably keep the Harper government to a minority. His weakness in urban Ontario ridings where people make fun of Rae Days while ignoring the blood-letting that successor Mike Harris implemented in their stead will hurt the Liberal party where it is strongest. But after serving time as the leader of the opposition, I believe it would be possible for him to bring the Liberal party back to power, as his record as a federal opposition leader overwrites that part of people's memories of his time as premier. How long it would take, I do not know. That he can win eventually is why Bob Rae remains my second choice.

The Liberal party has retained power over the bulk of the last century by capturing the centrist vote in the centre of the country. The highly urbanised provinces of Quebec and Ontario are the backbone of Liberal support, with a varying degree of support in the rest of the country. Rae might gain on the Bloc in Quebec and increase the current support in the rest of the country, but his Ontario weakness was shown in the delegate selection this past weekend. His left wing background makes him a concern to the volatile right wing of the party and is a short term liability, but a long term asset.

Michael Ignatieff, a brilliant intellectual with little political experience and no map of the minefield that is the Canadian political landscape has been hailed by many in the party as the white knight. He has tried to portray himself as a Pierre Trudeau, the frontrunner who will unite the party and defeat the naysayers, to lead us to 16 years of rather interesting government. Trudeau, as leader, welcomed his opponents into his cabinet and into his circle as team members, and not as rivals. It was a true demonstration of his leadership. I have no doubt that Ignatieff would handle his opponents in the same manner were he to win the leadership. Where I have doubt is in his ability to win an election following a leadership win.

Michael Ignatieff is, in spite of his claims to the contrary, from the right side of the party. The last right wing leader acclaimed by the membership as the holy grail of Liberal leadership nearly destroyed the party and allowed a Conservative government that no longer even pretended to be progressive to take power, putting us in the very position we are in today.

We are facing the prospect of a recession in the near future, as the North American housing market begins to collapse, accelerated by poor fiscal decisions by the Republican government in the United States and the rapid expunging of Canada's federal monies by our Conservative government in Canada. When recessions hit, the population moves to the left. Instead of having money and refusing to hand it over to the government, the population goes through a seismic shift, demanding that the government help the hobbled economy by injecting money into it. Indeed it should be the role of the government to put money away through the good times and spend it on things like rebuilding our national infrastructure in the bad times, to soften both the ups and the downs of the economic cycle, but the government we have today is eliminating the surplus we had put aside as a buffer, with huge tax cuts and massive military expenditures.

When the economy enters its period of recession, issues such as the war in Afghanistan become secondary to the domestic concerns of Canadians. This is not why Ignatieff risks losing an election. His views on foreign policy are interesting, if slightly untraditional to the Liberal party, but not wholly relevant to the upcoming political discourse in Canada. The main issue will be the economy. As things stand currently, a budget deficit by whatever party is in government is nearly inevitable only a couple of years down the road. Why the population will not accept their government going into deficit while they themselves dive into debts larger than their own 'gross family product', for lack of a better term, is a mystery to address on another day.

During recessions, populations tend to trade in their governments. This could become a problem in the province of Quebec, which currently has an unpopular, but federalist, leader. The Quebec Liberals may be re-elected before the economic downturn is felt, but if the recession hits in the next year as I believe it will, the people of Quebec will almost certainly elect André Boisclair and his separatist Parti Québecois.

Michael Ignatieff has already promised to pour salt into the wound of the Canadian constitution, never ratified by Quebec's National Assembly. Coupled with a weak economy and a separatist government, this would provide just the boost the PQ would need to win a referendum. It is a scenario that people who do not know Quebec fail to realise, though the soft nationalist vote in Quebec is more than happy to bring it on, as demonstrated by Michael Ignatieff's results in the province.

However, to get to that point, he would have to win an election and become the Prime Minister. I do not believe he can pull it off in the upcoming federal election. Some of his statements are already being played against him in the House of Commons, and his commitment to Canada is perceived by some as being a bit shaky. While he was in Canada in 1968 for the leadership convention that brought in Pierre Trudeau, he has been politically absent virtually the entire time since. Until recently, he would not even commit to running for parliament if not elected leader, though in a reversal reminiscent of Paul Martin, he now states unequivocally that he will of course stay on and run in the next election.

While I believe that Bob Rae could, I do not know if Michael Ignatieff would be able to keep Stephen Harper's Conservatives to a minority. In the short term, his right wing policies on foreign relations, including the general belief, whether true or not, that he would have sent Canadian soldiers to Iraq, prevent him from differentiating himself from the Conservative party. The dedicated right wing voters in Canada already have a right wing party to vote for in the Conservative party. I would be hard pressed to believe that they would vote for a conservative Liberal party, given that choice.

Ignatieff would also risk opening up the left flank of the party wider than it is now. I do not expect to see a Jack Layton minority government, but one cannot underestimate the size of an NDP caucus in a House with two right wing parties and only one left wing party in a time when the country is about to shift to the left. Jack Layton has been widely chastised for bringing down the Martin government prematurely, but his strategy may have been better thought out and longer term than he has been given credit for.

Michael Ignatieff sees himself as a left wing candidate. In the US political spectrum, I agree, but there is a red-shift of difference between the US and Canadian left. Here, he is distinctly to the right of centre.

The Liberal Party has long straddled the centre line, shifting to the left and to the right as the nation does. While the tide has been flowing to the right for a long time, it is now shifting back to the centre, and now would be a bad time for us to drop anchor.

Bob Rae is wrong about this not being a race of ideas, but he is right when he invokes winability. The ideas that matter are the short term, practical ones which will even out the Canadian economic cycle and reduce the shocks to our system, the ones that are relevant to the lives of Canadians.

Canadians want to live in a united, prosperous country without the uncertainty of another round of constitutional wrangling or the threat of a referendum on succession in Quebec, or the international animosity and tragedy created by fighting foreign wars for foreign powers. We, as a country, want a leader who has proven himself to be successful in handling the relevant issues of the day, and who has shown an unquestioning commitment to our country. The Liberal party's front-runner offers us neither of these features, and the man in second place has only the latter to show for his five year term as a majority premier.

There are two other possibilities in the race for the leadership of the Liberal party. Whether either of them can win the next election is unclear, but they at least offer both features mentioned above. Gerard Kennedy understands the problems facing our country in a prolonged war in Afghanistan and sits decidedly to the left of centre on the political spectrum, but faces his Achilles heel in that, while Michael Ignatieff has captured the soft nationalist support of the party in Quebec, and Stéphane Dion has captured the federalist vote in Quebec, he has captured no measurable support in that province.

Quebec is the critical growth area for the Liberal party and it would be unwise for us to head into the election with a leader who is completely unknown in the province. Kennedy might be able to win a subsequent election, after time spent leading the opposition, but he would need to grow into the role over a longer period of time and could not defeat the Conservative party in an election held in under a year. While he could almost certainly keep the Conservative party to a minority, we need to aim higher.

This leaves only one person in the top tier who stands any reasonable chance of winning a federal election this time, without waiting. Though I admit, from a cynical perspective, that the Liberal party would benefit in the long term from a Conservative government taking us into the recession,

Canada needs a Liberal government going into this recession to manage the country carefully and soften the blow it will inevitably deliver. The Conservative party's wreckless slashing of social programs, large tax cuts, increased capital spending, and premature debt repayment will leave them no alternative but to return to deficit when the economy cools off.

Stéphane Dion may have slightly weaker party support than any of the other candidates mentioned, but has more even support across the country than the other candidates. He is also the strong second choice for supporters of nearly all the other candidates. He is firmly in the centre of the political spectrum, and has a long track record in federal politics and is a dedicated, passionate, and uncompromising Canadian. His delegate support in Quebec is comparable to Michael Ignatieff's national support, dispelling the myth that Quebec will not vote for him, and proving that he can bring growth to the Liberal party in a province that needs it. Dion is the uniting candidate, lacking the perceived Chrétien ties of the Bob Rae campaign or the perceived Martin ties of the Ignatieff campaign. He is acceptable to both sides of a historically split party and stands the best chance of any of the candidates at bringing the party together following the leadership.

He understands that domestic issues, especially the increasing effects of our environmental irresponsibility, are the primary concern of Canadians, and he will talk policy, not politics, at every possible opportunity. He entered the race without being taken seriously, and has shown that he is not only serious, but has the potential to surprise the country as much as he has surprised the party, and win an election.

I have confidence that Stéphane Dion's understanding of the issues facing our country will cause him to invest in the major infrastructure investment of our time. A massive government initiative to spend on green energy will not only help Canada pull through a recession relatively unscathed, but bring us out the other side as a world leader in environmental issues. Dion's vision for the future of Canada is larger than the Liberal party, it is to the benefit of the country as a whole.

The economy will be our biggest near term concern, but the climate altering effects of global warming are our most important long term concern. The people of Canada are waking up to this reality. The solutions for our carbon dioxide filled atmosphere are just a properly led recession away.

All these candidates can, as leaders, win federal elections, eventually. Together, the four of them would make an excellent senior cabinet team in a Liberal government. All of them are true Liberals within the wide scope of the party, but the real question we must answer is how long are we willing to wait? How deep will the Canadian deficit have to get before we are brought in to patch it up? Many of the ministers in the current government have a good deal of practice at hiding fiscal mismanagement. Our federal Minister of Finance managed to hide a five billion dollar annual deficit from the people of Ontario when he was the provincial minister of the same portfolio in Ontario. We, as a country, cannot afford a leader who will require years to learn how to do his job. We need someone who is a leader here and now, who has the appropriate experience to defeat the Conservative government and the vision to keep Canada running smoothly in both the short term and the long term. I put it to you that this leader is Stéphane Dion.

leadership politics 2329 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 21:15 on October 06, 2006

A few quick thoughts on super weekend

As super weekend winds down, there are a few things on my mind about what's happening.

leadership musings politics 538 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 22:03 on October 01, 2006

Dion is your choice, too

In considering the convention that is a short two months away, I have realised the fundamental truth about who the Liberal party truly prefers for its leader.

Consider this:

In a two-way race between Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion, Stéphane Dion would win, hands down.

In a two-way race between Bob Rae and Stéphane Dion, Stéphane Dion would win, hands down.

In a two-way race between Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff, the party would risk becoming crippled by the polarisation between these two candidates.

The last ballot will be a two-way race. Please do your part at this weekend's delegate selection meetings to make sure that Stéphane Dion is one of the two.

There are only three serious contenders in this race: Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, and Stéphane Dion. Gerard Kennedy is a close fourth, but his weak French will doom him in a party whose tradition puts a francophone in this time around. His lack of a seat in the house would also risk making him a lame duck leader of the opposition. While I would also like to believe that Dryden's national name recognition could translate to a convention victory, organisation, not name recognition, has proven time and time again to be more important.

I won't go over all the reasons why Dion is the best candidate for the job. Paul Wells, the Montreal Gazette, Jason Cherniak, and a wide assortment of other bloggers have done this in depth. I have written about my opinions on the candidates and the leadership campaign several times, as well. In chronological order: April 7th, May 19th, June 11th, June 18th, June 28th, August 22nd, August 30th, September 11th, September 19th, and September 21st.

Contrary to the Conservative party's deliberate leak yesterday, they do not fear Michael Ignatieff. His supporters have fallen for this leak hook, line, and sinker, flaunting it as a reason why Ignatieff should win. The reality is that his inexperience at leading anything bigger than a university department, his ideas on war and torture, his desire to reopen the constitution, and his general ability to gaffe make him an easy target.

They would, it pains me to say, enjoy a fight with Bob Rae, though not as much as they think. Whatever he has learned over the last decade since losing his premiership in Ontario, that skeleton is still in his open closet. While his skills as a politician are strong, as evidenced by the fact that the three drop-outs in the race have all joined him (though their supporters have apparently mostly gone to Dion's campaign), and he has the backing of the formidable forces that are the Chrétien team, a federal election is not a leadership convention. Tory attack ads would not even need to be particularly creative to remind Ontarions of Rae's five-year term as Premier. His other major liability is, like Kennedy, that he is not yet in the Commons. As the leader of the Liberal party, this could prove to be very problematic. If the Liberals were in opposition to a majority government, Rae or Kennedy would have plenty of time to get themselves in the House and establish themselves as viable national leaders, but that's a scenario we neither have, nor particularly want.

It is Stéphane Dion they fear most of all. This is clear from their attempts to damage him by politicising the recent report on the environment file, and in their attempts to portray him as an also-ran who is behind Gerard Kennedy in yesterday's leak. Dion was only the environment minister for Paul Martin's short stint as a minority Prime Minister. Under Chrétien, he was the minister responsible for national unity, where he did an excellent job. Dion, who surgically picked apart the separatist arguments in Quebec with his open letters, would apply the same intellectual torture to tory policies while in opposition, and would bring the federalist vote back in line in Quebec, knocking the tories back out of that province and putting the Liberals back to the Speaker's right.

leadership politics 677 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 16:58 on September 29, 2006

The London Leadership Debate

Last night, my wife and I drove the hour and a bit to London, Ontario for a locally organised all-candidates debate. It was my first time seeing any of the nine candidates in person, and it was definitely a worthwhile experience.

On the way we were running a bit behind schedule and stopped at the service station at Beachville for a quick bite to eat. We pulled into a parking spot, next to a sedan with two people inside. The car pulled out, then pulled right back in, evidently deciding eating dinner in their car was safer when not actually moving. I am fairly certain that the passenger in the car was Martha Hall Findlay. In her opening statements she mentioned the 22,000 km figure for her bus again, and I assume that since that was the number in both the Quebec and BC debates, and seeing as I am pretty sure I saw her in a sedan, she has not been driving it much lately.

The first two candidates I saw venture into the room were Ken Dryden and Bob Rae. Television has a remarkable way of making everyone appear to be the same size, but, I was surprised to note, Ken Dryden is a giant man, and Bob Rae.. is not. All the candidates looked more or less like I expected, but seeing them in person rather than on TV they look a little different somehow.

The debate got under way at around 19:00. Three riding association presidents stood up at the mike together to welcome us and start off the debate. They made reference to the presence of all the candidates, noting it would be the last all-candidate event before Delegate Selection Meetings. I looked around the stage, noting: Hedy Fry - Joe Volpe - Scott Brison - empty podium - Stéphane Dion - Bob Rae - Michael Ignatieff - Ken Dryden - Martha Hall Findlay. I wondered if anyone would explain why there were only eight people at the nine podiums if everyone was here. Had Gerard Kennedy dropped out in the preceding hours?

The opening statements began. Just as Scott Brison was about to start speaking, Gerard Kennedy entered the room and quietly ran up to his podium, causing the moderator to re-explain to the audience for Kennedy's benefit the signals for when each speaker would be out of time.

Most of what the candidates had to say is what the candidates normally have to say. A few things stood out for me. I did not take any notes, so this is them in the order that I remember them:

On the topic of Maher Arar and security certificates, Michael Ignatieff asserted that we should abolish security certificates, something I agree with completely. If people have broken a law, charge them, in a closed court if needed, but charge them. Dion noted on the same question that he was surprised at how obvious many of the report recommendations were, citing one that said the RCMP should have annual reports on the human rights conditions in other countries.

In their answers about the war in Afghanistan, Brison and Ignatieff were clearly on the stick-it-out side, while the rest were on the side of not staying there forever. Kennedy said we should make NATO do it right or get out, Dion stated that we must rebuild the country as was done with the Marshal plan, though Ignatieff countered that we need security before we can rebuild. It is a bit of a catch 22, I think. We will not have security until we rebuild, and we can not rebuild until there is security. Perhaps we would get somewhere if we just go ahead and rebuild.

Still on Afghanistan, there was discussion of how to wean the Afghani economy off opium. Martha Hall Findlay pointed out the hypocracy of our position, noting that the market for opium is largely in the West, and citing the lack of profitable alternatives for Afghani farmers.

After a 90 second break, the debate briefly shifted to a format where, instead of each candidate answering each question in sequence for one minute each, the candidates were given 30 seconds and only three were selected to answer the questions, chosen at random.

One of the questions in this format was on renewing Liberal party fund-raising. Naturally, the randomly selected candidates to answer that question included Joe Volpe and Bob Rae, the most curious fund-raiser and the most successful fund-raiser in the campaign combined. Volpe tried to make a joke of his answer, but it fell flat. We should increase our popular vote, he said, so that we get a bigger subsidy from Elections Canada.

Scott Brison had a lot of zingers and can be very funny, though being funny does not necessarily make someone a good leader. Among my favourites were his comments that he would address Quebec's lack of inclusion in the constitution in his second term as Prime Minister, and later, that he was born a Liberal but only came out of the closet recently.

Sticking with the constitution for a moment, Findlay and Dion's responses to how to rectify Quebec's absence from the Canadian constitution were apt, amounting to "don't we have more important things to do?" I couldn't agree more: reopening the constitutional debates plays right into the hands of the Bloc and accomplishes nothing whatsoever.

Bob Rae poked fun at his own history as an NDP premier on at least two occasions, once mentioning a mysteriously appearing Trillium Drug Program that showed up in Ontario.... in 1994, and later commenting that multiple terms is something he knows little about.

On health care, predictably all the candidates angled toward a single-payer system. Martha Hall Findlay made reference to the "elephant in the room" of the private sector's role, suggesting competition within the system wasn't a bad thing. There is definitely a role for the private sector in health care, as she noted in her comments. General Practitioners, for example, have long been publicly funded private practices. But encouraging competition within the health care system has its risks. I have a photo worth a thousand words to say on that particular topic, as a caution. This photo is of a billboard in Utica, New York which I took on December 30th, 2005:

Utica ambulance billboard

Well, that's about it for the content. Most of what was said has been said by all sides many times before. The debate was aired on Rogers TV locally, but I have no idea whether it will ever be viewable by a wider audience.

Having now seen all the candidates in person rather than on TV, I'd like to give my impression of each, from left to right:

Lastly, I note that six of the nine candidates wear glasses. What is remarkable to me is that any of them still even have a sense of sight. At the end of the debate, I looked back toward the lighting pointed at the stage and noted no fewer than four very bright lights pointed straight at the candidates' faces. If politicians seem to see things a little spottedly, I can understand why!

Also see this entry on liberaliaca for more reaction to yesterday's debate.

leadership politics 1983 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 21:59 on September 21, 2006

Last ballot scenarios: Ignatieff the... kingmaker?

I have been pondering Michael Igantieff's leadership bid and his chances at the convention in December, and have a slightly different scenario from the norm to propose: the last ballot will be between Stéphane Dion and Bob Rae.

A divisive "anybody but Iggy" movement at the convention must be avoided. Perpetuating years of internal party rifts with a wounding anybody-but campaign is not good for the party, but I fear that such a movement is already present in the race. This polarising effect means that Michael Ignatieff's support is, to me, both very strong and very stable. The people who would support him are already supporting him. Put together with his lack of political experience, he risks not knowing how to pursue the dark side of a convention where horse trading inevitably takes place, most blatantly seen with David Orchard's contract with Peter MacKay to not do what Peter MacKay went ahead and did anyway. The result is that I see very little room for growth for Ignatieff at the convention. If he does not have a strong first ballot showing, his subsequent ballot support may also be weak, giving the momentum to others.

Maurizio Bevilacqua and Carolyn Bennett's moves to the Bob Rae camp strike me two ways. First, they show Bob Rae's purely political know-how. Getting the support of two early drop-outs from the race is a bit of a coup for him, and suffice it to say that neither of them are likely to have done so without some kind of not readily apparent incentive. Second, both candidates likely wanted to support someone who is Not Ignatieff, or they would have supported him.

If I had to guess, I would say that with most of the candidates being from Ontario, most of their support will go to the strongest Ontario candidate. As much as his campaign would like to believe it is the case, I suspect that the strongest Ontario candidate at the convention will not be Gerard Kennedy, but Bob Rae. I don't believe his record as premier will remain a factor when push comes to shove.

As the convention goes through several ballots, I foresee Dion and Rae being the recipients of virtually all the orphaned delegates. At the second to last ballot, Dion, Rae, and Ignatieff will be left with around 1/3 support each, meaning there will be three possibilities for the final ballot: Ignatieff-Rae, Ignatieff-Dion, or Dion-Rae. In the latter case, which would only happen if Ignatieff accumulates absolutely no additional support, he would have to choose between Rae and Dion. In all these cases I see one of Dion or Rae winning. Between either and Ignatieff, the one to leave the ballot of Rae and Dion will support the other, and in the case of Rae-Dion, well, obviously one has to win.

I do not believe Michael Ignatieff has considered the possibility that he could lose this race and I do not have any idea which way he would go on a final ballot if this scenario were to unfold, nor do I think he yet knows himself. The irony of the situation though would be that the person whose campaign was marked by an anybody-but campaign would end up being the kingmaker, selecting the leader for the party Harper (accidentally) called Canada's "next" government in question period today.

leadership politics 563 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 22:03 on September 19, 2006

Analysis of the September 10th, 2006 Liberal leadership debate

I was travelling over the weekend and did not get back on time to see the debate, but caught the evening rerun on CPAC. This third formal leadership debate saw some serious structural improvements over previous ones, not least of which was the mostly unilingual format.

As one of those Canadians who does actually speak both languages, it can be frustrating to listen to translators translating English speakers' poor French back to English or vice versa, and taking what is said out of the original voice. Not having to chase speakers back and forth between primary and secondary audio was a very welcome change. That said, here's my analysis of the performance of most of the candidates from yesterday's debate.

The debate was formally bilingual. The moderator asked each question in both French and English, so those listening to the simultaneous translator could get two versions of the same question, and candidates were free to pick a language in their statements and debates. In that vein, I enjoyed Scott Brison's comment that while he has a maritime accent in French, he also has one in English. Stéphane Dion stated that a leader should be fluent in both languages and made a point of switching between them, causing me to lunge for the SAP button on my remote, and Martha Hall Findlay showed herself to be the only one to understand the real root purpose of bilingualism.

What's that, you say? Well, Findlay was the only candidate who, instead of bumbling along in a language she could not speak properly, chose the message over the form. The true value of having a bilingual country isn't necessarily, in my view, to have everyone speak both languages. It's to have everyone speak their language, whichever it is, and have their message heard. When Findlay found herself unable to say something as clearly as she'd like to in French, she simply switched to English. To me, that's perfectly acceptable. If there was a unilingual French candidate, I would expect them to do the same the other way in the interests of getting their message across. Ideally, of course, all our leaders would be fluently bilingual, as Dion is, but fundamentally, the message is more important than the form. When Carolyn Bennett stands up and struggles hard to construct useful sentences, misusing words left and right, it detracts from what she is trying to say. I suspect that what she has to say is wonderfully intelligent and useful in explaining her vision for our country. If I could figure out what it was she was saying I'd tell you for sure.

Findlay also tipped her hand during the debate that her mission was more about becoming known than actually winning the leadership, noting that when she joined the race she was an unknown and now she's the "daring choice". She has secured her place in the political future of the party and the country, I am sure.

The format of the debate, abolishing the absurd paired questions and the two sections, was a huge improvement over the earlier attempts. This debate was actually interesting to watch, and easy to follow. The match-ups were great, leading to some interesting discussions, though I didn't take any notes about specific things said that I might want to discuss here.

Gerard Kennedy did not come across as a particularly good debater. He waits in the wings, not interjecting usefully, constantly waiting for his opportunities instead of taking them. He does not appear comfortable debating, and that does not bode well for an election race. When the liberal leader, Harper, Layton, and Duceppe are going at it in the next federal election, the leader will have to be adept at getting his message across.

It is also worth noting that Kennedy's applause when he stood up for his opening remarks was unrivalled for its sparsity, which I found surprising. Kennedy kind of reminds me of another ostensibly attractive provincial minister from a have province who took over a federal opposition party -- before, as a manner of speaking, falling off his sea-doo into a south-flowing Niagara Falls.

Bob Rae tried to score some points in various and subtle ways. He commented at one point that he would win this race -- and if not, he'd still be there fighting for the party. I'm sure Ignatieff felt that one on his cheek. Rae is impressive in his relaxed comfort in the debate format and his ability to stick to his point.

The debate between Carolyn Bennett, Hedy Fry, and Ken Dryden was uninspiring at best. Dryden and Bennett both have a nervous vibration in their voices, especially when speaking French, and so even if what they say is important, they sound tense, nervous, and diffident. That's fine in debating clubs, but when running for the leadership of the party, it would be very useful to just relax and speak with confidence.

I'll refrain from commenting too much on Dion's performance except to say he's still far and away my first choice. He's the only one who knows the answer to all the key questions: why he is running, what he plans to do as leader, and how to go about it. He's charismatic, he's bilingual, and he deserves to win this race. While other candidates debate whether it is more important to express their message clearly -- or in French, Dion has no such concern. His message is clear in whichever language he is speaking.

Michael Ignatieff, for his part, seems to be taking heed of all the criticism floating around. There were no anticipatory hypotheticals yesterday. He managed to keep his vocabulary to the understandable and his misstatements out. Perhaps it was a function of not speaking much English during the debate. Also, I find that he goes out of his way to compliment other candidates on their work and their very existence, to the point of sometimes looking a bit silly.

Except for Volpe's pointless appearance at the debate, I'd say it went very well yesterday as far as debates go. It was a little more engaging than the previous two debates and remained mostly quite positive. My preferential standings for the candidates is unchanged except for the disappearance of Bevilacqua from June 17th:

  1. Stéphane Dion
  2. Bob Rae
  3. Martha Hall Findlay
  4. Ken Dryden
  5. Michael Ignatieff
  6. Gerard Kennedy
  7. Scott Brison
  8. Carolyn Bennett
  9. Hedy Fry
  10. Joe Volpe

Dryden is where he is here because I believe that a soft spoken leader who stands for what I believe in is better and more important than a well spoken leader who does not.

I would also like to express the hope that the bottom three candidates, at least, on this list drop out of the race before the next debate, but I not so naive as to believe any of them will.

leadership politics 1148 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 21:16 on September 11, 2006

Ignatieff says he'll run for parliament if he wins the leadership

Michael Ignatieff says he will probably run in the next election if he wins the leadership of the Liberal party.

According to this article by Linda Diebel at the Star, Ignatieff says whether or not he runs in the next election will depend on who is leader. He also says that he is "quite confident" that he will win the leadership.

Obviously he thinks he would make the best leader, otherwise he wouldn't be running. Any leadership candidate who does not believe they are the best person for the job doesn't stand much of a chance when they take a run at it. It is probable also that he would not wish to run in a Liberal party run by someone who he considers inferior to himself. We can therefore assume that he has no intention of running in the election if anyone other than himself is leader, though we can only guess as to whether or not he intends to run if he does win. He may, after all, consider himself to be an inadequate leader under which to run.

Asked if he plans to re-run in his own riding, Ignatieff says, according to the article: "I'd like to serve my constituents well, but you're asking me an anticipatory hypothetical about the situation that prevails on the 3rd or 4th of December."

If Ignatieff would seriously like to be leader, he would be well advised to put in some more time on the Hill, and to at least sound like that is where he wants to be. I would be surprised if he were to be left out of cabinet in a future Grit government. A little experience on the governing side of the house demonstrating his abilities, how he handles controversies and debates, and proving himself to be a leader would go a long ways toward boosting support for a future leadership bid. Returning to academia following a defeat would only confirm the misgivings I have about his commitment to leadership and his competency as a leader. Mainly I am concerned that he does not understand politics within the Canadian frame of reference -- and that he will move on to other challenges if he loses.

If his inclination is to cut and run when suffering a setback, how would he handle a defeat in the Commons?

leadership politics 400 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 23:08 on August 30, 2006

Stop Iggy?

A mass mailing went out today to all Liberal party members, something done by many of the candidates over the course of the campaign. Unlike the others though, this one is advertising against a candidate rather than for one, promoting a site called Stop Iggy. While I do not wish to see Ignatieff win the leadership, I believe this is about the worst thing his opponents can do.

The letter warns: "We are a group of longtime active members of the Liberal Party of Canada who are disturbed about Michael Ignatieff's bid for the leadership of our party. A self-styled left-of-center Liberal, Michael Ignatieff is anything but. He supports both the war in Iraq and Missile Defence/Weaponization of Space, is an apologist for torture, and is against the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, he has suggested that he would privatize Medicare. Do we want a leader who is similar to Stephen Harper in so many ways?" It goes on to say he could actually be elected and implores Liberals to carefully consider their votes.

My view of Ignatieff is fairly simple: he sees Canadian politics through an American prism, where liberal is a swear word and supporting soldiers is not distinguished from supporting the wars they are fighting, where there is a President, but there is no clear leader of the opposition. If he loses the leadership, I fully expect him to return to academia and abandon his political career until his next opportunity. I see him as running for "President" in Canada, as opposed to for the leadership of the Liberal party or for leadership of, at least for the moment, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

I do not, however, believe that an Ignatieff victory would cause Canada to disappear in a puff of red, white, and blue smoke, or that his victory will end the Liberal party. It has endured leaders like Ignatieff before, namely in the form of John Turner and Paul Martin, and it can again. As such, I think the StopIggy approach is bad.

The StopIggy approach is, ironically, playing in the game Ignatieff is more used to. Making it a negative campaign based on attacks rather than the promotion of another's policy and merits puts us in a race closer in nature to American primaries than to a party leadership race ostensibly based on policies and principles. At the end of the day, all the leadership candidates have to stand up on stage, shake hands, and work together to get the Liberal party back on the other side of the Commons, with whoever won being responsible for guiding the rest of the candidates and the rest of the party. The new leader is highly influential in the direction of the party, but is not all-powerful and would be hard pressed to move the party in a direction that it does not wish to go.

If Shawn Jackson, the registrant of StopIggy.com, and others who believe Ignatieff should not be leader truly believe that he should not be the leader, they should pick one of the other candidates who they do believe in and back them passionately, positively, and proactively.

It is not even necessary to support a top-tier candidate like Dion, Rae, or Kennedy. In fact, it might even be better to support a smaller-time candidate so that you can influence that candidate's direction when it is time for them to support another at the convention. If you believe one of the other candidates would be better than Ignatieff, see to it that your choice wins, rather than seeing to it that Ignatieff loses. When you force one candidate to lose rather than another to win, nobody wins, and the Liberals remain to the speaker's left.

Think of it this way: is Joe Volpe really a better choice than Michael Ignatieff?

leadership politics 637 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 21:02 on August 22, 2006

Dion is from Quebec: so what?

A common criticism I have seen of Stéphane Dion in blog comments, for months now, is that he is from Quebec, that we shouldn't have yet another Quebec leader. I don't believe it is fair to judge a leader based on previous leaders, only on their own merits. But for the sake of argument, because I am tired of reading criticism of Dion purely because he is from Quebec, let's take a look at the history of Prime Ministers over the last 40 years and compare where they are from to their success as Prime Minister.

In chronological order of the Prime Ministers since Pearson came to office, as gleaned from wikipedia:

Prime MinisterPartyStart dateEnd dateStateRidingProvinceBorn
Lester B. PearsonLiberal1963-04-081965-11-08MinorityAlgoma EastOntarioOntario
Lester B. PearsonLiberal1965-11-081968-04-19MinorityAlgoma EastOntarioOntario
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1968-04-201968-06-25InheritedMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1968-06-251972-10-30MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1972-10-301974-07-08MinorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1974-07-081979-05-22MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
Joe ClarkProgressive Conservative1979-05-221980-02-18MinorityYellowheadAlbertaAlberta
Pierre TrudeauLiberal1980-02-181984-06-29MajorityMount RoyalQuebecQuebec
John TurnerLiberal1984-06-291984-09-16InheritedNot electedn/aEngland
Brian MulroneyProgressive Conservative1984-09-171988-11-21MajorityManicouaganQuebecQuebec
Brian MulroneyProgressive Conservative1988-11-211993-06-24MajorityCharlevoixQuebecQuebec
Kim CampbellProgressive Conservative1993-06-251993-11-03InheritedVancouver CentreBCBC
Jean ChretienLiberal1993-11-041997-06-02MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Jean ChretienLiberal1997-06-022000-11-27MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Jean ChretienLiberal2000-11-272003-12-11MajoritySaint-MauriceQuebecQuebec
Paul MartinLiberal2003-12-122004-06-28InheritedLasalle-EmardQuebecOntario
Paul MartinLiberal2004-06-282006-02-05MinorityLasalle-EmardQuebecOntario
Stephen HarperConservative2006-02-06in officeMinorityCalgary SouthwestAlbertaOntario

By province of birth:

ProvincePrime MinistersMajority termsMinority termsInherited terms
British Columbia1001
Alberta1010
Saskatchewan0000
Manitoba0000
Ontario3041
Quebec3811
New Brunswick0000
Nova Scotia0000
Prince Edward Island0000
Newfoundland0000
The territories (all)0000
International1001

By this table we can see that a mere one-third of recent Prime Ministers have actually come from Quebec. The same number are from Ontario.

Of the last 14 parliaments, 8 were majorities and 6 were minorities.

Of those 6 minorities, one was won by a Quebec-born leader, one by an Alberta-born leader, and four by Ontario-born leaders.

Of the 8 majorities, all 8 were won by Quebec-born leaders.

If we go by province of representation instead of by province of birth, Ontario loses two prime ministers, each representing one minority, one to each of Alberta and Quebec. By representation, Quebec still represents fewer than one half of recent Prime Ministers.

By any measure, Quebeckers - whether English or French, Liberal or Conserative - have been the most successful Prime Ministers in the last 40 years. We have had 9 prime ministers, but not one single one from outside of Quebec has won a majority government in recent history.

If you do not believe Stéphane Dion is the best candidate for leader of the Liberal party, that's fine with me. I like a lot of the candidates, too. I prefer Dion, but I won't begrudge others' opinions of who is the best man for the job. Say why you prefer your candidate. Say what it is about Dion that you would like to see improved. Discuss policy ideas and alternatives. But don't say that there have been too many Prime Ministers from Quebec and it's time for another province to take a turn. It is not a fair argument: Quebeckers have simply won more elections as leaders, they have not had more leaders.

This leadership race should be about ideas, policies, and the future, not about where leaders are from in relation to previous leaders.

leadership politics 498 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 14:37 on June 28, 2006

Analysis of the June 17th Liberal leadership debate

The second of five Liberal leadership debates was much more lively than the first. The debate was in the same format as the one on the 10th, but all the candidates seemed to have noticed the lack of excitement in that last debate and wanted to make things more lively. The result was more English and less French, much to the chagrin of one vocal francophone audience member. Here is how I see the candidates' performance this time around, in order of seating:

Maurizio Bevilacqua: Bevilacqua was quite good at answering all the questions he would have liked to have been asked, with only some influence from the questions that were, in fact, asked.

In his opening statement, Bevilacqua asked if we Liberals have lost our way. No, he says, we know exactly who we are. We also know who Harper is: he speaks about spreading democracy but limits it at home. He says he and Harper are the same age, but generations apart.

Bevilacqua was long on rhetoric, but short on any real ideas or plans.

He described seasonal workers as a misnomer. They are not seasonal workers, he said, they are full time workers with seasonal opportunities. We must create more opportunities.

He dismissed the carbon tax as not being an option.

He debated Hedy Fry in the one-on-one debates. They were given the topic of federal/provincial jurisdictional boundaries to discuss.

He opened by saying that we have to go back to when we inherited a $42B deficit with escalating debt. We got the books in order, invested, and things improved for everyone in Canada. Provinces, he said, benefitted from this federal management.

An improved standard of living, lower taxes, improved productivity, and investment in our universities are areas where he will work, he said, completely missing the topic at hand. The key to economic growth, he went on after Fry addressed interprovincial barriers, is free flow across the country. Foreign investment in Canada is declining, he said, and without capital investment, we will not be able to improve productivity.

Bevilacqua said very little of substance and was unable to answer the questions that were asked. He is trading places with Scott Brison on my list.

Michael Ignatieff: Ignatieff showed slightly more life than he did last week. This week I felt there was somebody home.

Ignatieff says this race is about who has the best chance of defeating Harper. He says the Liberals must defeat Harper's narrative, his story line, a theme Ignatieff used through his opening statement.

He warned that Harper wants to make impossible for future governments to build social structures in Canada as have been done since Laurier. He said he wants to lead a party with a better story.

Ignatieff was the only one of the candidates that I could see who referred to notes during his opening statement.

A couple of little things Ignatieff said bothered me.

Ignatieff made a point on the topic of seasonal workers of applauding Joe Volpe's work on the subject. Personally I think Volpe is damaged goods over his questionable large donation from the entire family of a corporate executive, and his handling thereof, and should not be encouraged to stick around.

The second thing he said that got to me was his apology on behalf of all the candidates for not speaking enough French after an audience member took the whole lot to task for not speaking enough French. Ignatieff should stick to apologising for himself, and let the other candidates answer or not answer as they see fit.

That said, he said some positive things as well.

On the topic of seasonal labourers, he would like to remove the two week eligibility period for collecting employment insurance, and use EI for more apprenticeships and retraining.

He would like to see an investment in researching Alzheimer's, which he says his mother died of and affects some 750,000 people a year in Canada.

On the controversial issue of carbon taxes, he said he does not want to add to our taxes; he would like to reduce them. He wants to use taxes to incite people to pollute less. Pollute less, pay less tax.

I suppose that is just a creative way of saying that pollution should be taxable -- which I have no problem with.

Ignatieff was assigned Ken Dryden as his partner for his one-on-one debate, the question of which was about our national finances and priorities, our tax system, and what our two or three most important fiscal priorities are to improve productivity and our the standard of living.

Ignatieff commented that the tax system is full of buy-the-vote gimmicks from many previous governments and should be simpler. He asked why tax forms are so complicated that they take an accountant to fill them out.

He said that we need to pay down the national debt, warning that the new government will put us back in deficit very quickly.

Post-secondary education needs some serious investment, he said, saying the policy should be: "if you've got the grades, you get to go, the Canadian government guarantees it".

Ignatieff comes across to me as being far more used to lecturing and being listened to than debated and challenged. I still have trouble with the idea of him leading this party.

Scott Brison: Brison said he was proud to be back home in Atlantic Canada, playing to the local audience.

We need a leader who believes in Atlantic Canada, warned Brison, saying he was that leader while asking for support.

To Harper, he said, "we are not defeatists" in Atlantic Canada.

Brison made a point of answering the first two questions in his heavily accented but not bad French.

He said that we need to invest in telecom and transport infrastructure and to work on development for the Maritimes, in answer to a question about EI benefits for seasonal workers.

On the topic of fisheries, he commented that there are more bureaucrats in Ottawa than there are fish in the Rideau canal, suggesting that people in the fishing regions might have better ideas for how to handle fish stocks.

He said that we must use carrots, not sticks, to handle carbon emissions, and offer incentives for consumers.

He said Canada must have a strong foreign policy to defend our interests and promote our values. If Trudeau had not brought us the Charter, he said, he'd probably not be standing there. In Afghanistan, he noted, 5 million girls are now going to school who could not before.

Brison was selected from a lobster trap to debate Joe Volpe and Bob Rae in a three-way debate on the topic of whether Canada's multi-culturalism is a ticking time-bomb or a model of social cohesion.

Citing 750,000 peace-loving Muslims in Canada, Brison said multiculturalism is not in conflict with security, but a complement to it.

He also suggested that we need to work to create an international protocol on the certification of professionals, to eliminate skilled professionals being unable to work in Canada. He said we have free trade in cars and furniture, but not in brains. We should have a knowledge-based economy.

On the development of immigration to Atlantic Canada, Brison stated that we need to find policies to retain people, not just attract them.

Brison's approach to this debate seemed to be well geared toward the Atlantic audience he was directly speaking to. For making more sense than last week and not saying anything dumb about how our foreign policy should be governed by New York Times headlines, and because of Bevilacqua's own performance, he and Bevilacqua are trading places on my list.

Bob Rae: Rae started by stating that we must work for a strong federal government that can act for all Canadians.

He warned that Atlantic Canada is the only region of Canada that lacks a catastrophic drug plan.

Rae categorically says "no" to the idea that EI pay-outs should be based on how much is paid in, which would punish seasonal workers.

He said the plan "is a tory idea, it's a bad idea."

Rae said that it is easy to promise to lower taxes. Tories do this.

For carbon taxes, he wants to know what is meant by them before passing judgement. If a carbon tax will target one industry, province, or region, it is a bad idea, but if it links pollution to tax, it's good. We have to take advantage of the opportunity afforded us by Kyoto, he said.

The UN, he said, is the best chance we have to improve the rule of law in the world. It is in the best traditions of Pearson and Trudeau.

Rae was selected to join Scott Brison and Joe Volpe for the lone three-way debate during the debates section at the end of the leadership forum, left to discuss the topic of multiculturalism in Canada.

Rae noted that the Air India bombing was plotted in Canada, carried out by Canadians, and killed Canadians. We have to recognise the dignity of difference, he said. We must break down festering solitudes between communities, starting in our schools.

After listening to Volpe and Brison go at it for a while, Rae commented "it's nice to get a chance to speak."

He said Canada is the world. We have to break down extremism as we see it around the world and improve integration. We must celebrate our differences and not insist on conformity.

From what I've seen, Rae provides a logical rather than passionate approach to issues in Canada and could well make a good leader. He remains my second choice for leader of the Liberal party.

Stéphane Dion: Dion began his opening statement by wiping his forehead and noting he ought to start with global warming.

Dion's main campaign plank is the addition of a third pillar to fundamental Liberal values: environmental sustainability.

To this end, he noted in his introduction that we are more aware of major storms in the Maritimes and more aware of the need to protect our fish stocks. While fighting a microphone that kept cutting out, he promoted his three-pillars approach and cited his 10 years of federal experience, saying he has practical solutions to offer.

On the topic of seasonal workers and EI, Dion noted that it is not the workers that are seasonal, it's the industries. One quarter of industry in Canada, he noted, is seasonal.

We have pilot projects in progress to improve EI, he said, and they are working well.

On the topic of low income seniors, he said that when he was a minister the proportion of seniors who are low income was reduced from 11% to 6%.

Following a challenge from a member of the audience over the candidates' (lack of) use of French and Ignatieff's apology on behalf of all the candidates, Dion responded that he will answer English questions in English, and French questions in French. I don't think he gained the vote of the plaintiff in so doing, but I don't think he was wrong in any way. As I said last week, what is said is more important than what language it is said in. Content over form.

Dion said he wants to use science to reduce pollution in our waters, noting that Harper cut funding for such projects. Harper, he said, has no vision for the future.

He asked that people stop pretending that the Liberal government did not do anything. We have had a plan since 1995, he said.

Dion described the world being in Montreal together last December to fight climate change as being his best moment.

His worst, he added, is when Harper destroyed all his work last month.

Dion was put up against Gerard Kennedy for their one-on-one debates.

Kennedy spoke of changing the Liberal party's approach to the Maritimes, causing Dion to ask why people pretend that the Liberals have done nothing for the previous 12 years.

We have a strong economy, Dion said, because we have been doing good things. We need to work on resource productivity and bringing together our economy.

Dion said there is a program in Atlantic Canada that has helped secure loans for environmental projects that need funding but the banks refuse to fund. He called it a very good program and expressed a desire to expand it across the country.

Kennedy described the Liberal party as the 'status quo' party and warned Dion that it can't be about what we did before.

Dion retorted that Kennedy had so far failed to express a single original idea.

Dion noted that the government has invested $700 million in economic development in the Maritimes but only $10 million in environmental development.

I believe Dion is the only one of the 11 candidates who truly knows exactly what it is he wants to do as Prime Minister, and how to do it. This makes him the opposite of his predecessor at the head of the party who knew only that he wanted to be the leader, but had no plans or ideas once there.

Dion's passion and ability to respond quickly and intelligently to anything asked only serves to reinforce my continuing support of his leadership.

Martha Hall Findlay: Findlay declared in reasonably good French that it is nice to be in Canada's only officially bilingual city in Canada's only officially bilingual province and to be bilingual. Then she switched to English for the duration of her opening statement.

She implored Liberals to be able to distinguish between private sector contribution to public health-care, and US-style HMO/insurance-company two-tier health care. The private sector must have a role to play in a single-tier public health-care system.

She warned that Canada needs to pay down its national debt, especially in good times. Our social programs, she warned, depend on our prosperity.

We need to come up with constructive progressive policies for the future of the country, she said.

It bothers me that so many politicians say things like this. "We must come up with" "we will find solutions" yadda yadda. It's the leaders' responsibilities to have those solutions and implement them, not just to idly state that they should eventually come up with some.

In debate with Carolyn Bennett, Findlay cautioned that while we all worry about a two-tier health-care system, our education system is becoming increasingly two-tier.

She described home care as more cost effective and better for the patient and said it is an important policy to pursue.

On the topic of the East coast fishery, Findlay commented that if there are no fish, there is no fishery.

On Carbon tax, Findlay says she is using solar energy at home, and that it is doable. For lowering our carbon emissions, she says a carbon tax is not the way to go about it. Nor, she said, is putting a tax on all SUVs - some people, she points out, actually do have legitimate need for such vehicles and we should not penalise them. We must use tax credits and incentives to encourage positive environmental behaviour.

Carolyn Bennett was named to debate Findlay on the topic of US relations and the need to diversify our foreign partners.

Findlay noted that our advantages on the world stage are not that we can offer cheap labour as some countries do, but that we offer an educated workforce, a universal health-care system, and embrace diversity.

She warned that we are training our competitors, rather than, as Bennett suggested, sending ambassadors for Canada to other countries when they receive their educations here.

Findlay likes to say it as it is. It's not diplomatic, but it's damned refreshing. She moves up to third on my list, after Dion and Rae.

Ken Dryden: Dryden was slightly more lively this time, though not much. Frankly, I think he should have about four cups of coffee before the next debate so that his tone is wired rather than sleep-inducing.

He warned that this race is about preparing to win the next election and regaining the confidence of the population.

Dryden compared Harper's childcare program to giving everyone $50 a century ago and telling them to come up with an education system. Nothing would have happened, he warned. Child care, he said, is about learning. There is no learning by putting a few dollars in parents' pockets.

We must be a learning society, he said.

Dryden said we must explore all options for curbing global warming including the promotion of alternative and greener fuels, and a carbon tax.

On the topic of the UN and multiculturalism, he described a high school he visited while researching for a book as being a model of the world, with all the different cultures in classrooms together. They are preparing for a global experience. We are the most global country in the world, he said, and it is an incredible advantage.

He and Michael Ignatieff debated fiscal priorities for the country.

Dryden said that the economy has been strong, that we must remember what it was like before, and how we got where we are. When you pay down the debt, he said, you generate a kind of confidence and you allow growth and a reduction in unemployment. He described the tories' lowering of the GST and raising of personal income tax as a difference in fundamental understanding of our country.

Though a painfully boring speaker, Dryden has a lot to say. By paying more attention to him than I did last week, I can see that there is substance there. He's moving up over Michael Ignatieff to take fourth place behind Findlay on my preferentially ordered list.

Carolyn Bennett: Bennett, mercifully, avoided speaking too much French this time around, though the French she did speak seemed slightly stronger than last week. Perhaps she practised.

She said that the leadership candidates did not explain their positions well last week.

I say: All general statements are false.

Some candidates did explain their positions much better than others, but I think she was really referring to the confusion in her own statements.

Bennett said that we must rebuild the Liberal party to win back the confidence of Canadians to protect our children's future.

She offered some actual policy ideas, setting her apart from many of the other candidates, suggesting such things as revisiting mandatory retirement.

On the topic of carbon tax, she said we must reward the purchase of hybrids and electric lawn-mowers, and not such things as the purchase of SUVs.

For the United Nations, she warned that the US is not the sheriff of the world. There is an existing organisation, she said, that does have the role, though it could use some democratisation. The UN is not perfect, she said, but it is there.

She was up against Martha Hall Findlay in her one-on-one debate.

The topic of their debate was whether we need to diversify our international trade to avoid being too reliant on our relations with the United States.

She believes that it is very important for our economy to diversify its trading partners. She cautioned that it is dangerous not to, with the rise of China, India, and South America. We must invest in education and innovation.

She made the curious point that one of our great strengths is that we educate foreigners who then go back home with our education. Findlay took issue with this point, noting that in so doing we were not so much sending ambassadors for Canada back to these countries, but training our competition.

Bennett's non assertive style and sometimes illogical statements leaves her down near the bottom of my list, but her heart is in the right place.

Gerard Kennedy: Kennedy's opening remarks were energetic and slightly confusing.

He implied that the other candidates offered tweaks, while he offered real change.

Kennedy warned that globalisation is real and that we need to prepare for it, saying Canada needs to be out in front to define the terms of globalisation, but, like so many other candidates on so many issues, said little in the way of how.

Asked about fish stocks, Kennedy said that we can not control the stocks. We can have joint management with input from those directly involved, and we must have confidence in the way we manage the stocks.

He said he disagrees with the idea of a carbon tax. We need to create consensus, he said.

During his one-on-one debate with Stéphane Dion, he raised Dion's ire with his unwillingness to propose anything constructive, after telling Dion that it can not be about the past.

Kennedy's description of the Liberal party as the "status quo party", high dose of rhetoric, low dose of concrete ideas, and the performance of some of his competitors get him knocked down a few spots on my candidate rankings.

Mainly, I did not feel that Kennedy came across as a leader in the debate, just an arguer.

Joe Volpe: Volpe is still here?

His opening comment was about a newspaper article describing the war in Afghanistan. "I agree with it", he said. "I am Stephen Harper."

Really, I couldn't have said it better myself.

On the topic of a carbon tax, Volpe said we already put in a program to succeed with Kyoto, crediting Dion with creating the plan.

Volpe made frequent reference to having landed at Pier 21 51 years ago this week.

Somehow, Volpe got into the three-way debate again this week, this time saddling Bob Rae and Scott Brison with his domineering rhetoric.

Volpe challenged Brison over whether he has a program to get more immigrants to Atlantic Canada.

Brison replied that opportunities need to be created to retain people. Getting them to come is not the problem, but getting them to stay is, Brison went on to say "I've started businesses in Atlantic Canada, I know something about it." Volpe was visibly crestfallen.

I'm not sure why, but Volpe seems unable to be a gentleman in this race. He is my first choice of candidates to remove to help pare down the list of candidates to something slightly more manageable.

Hedy Fry: Fry's energy is boundless, but her point always seems to be lost on me.

In another of those great misstatements, she said in her opening statement: "I want you to support me because my policy is on my website."

I think I shall endeavour to support anyone with a website, now that you mention it, Hedy. Thanks.

She concluded her opening statement with "I defeated the last tory Prime Minster, I can't wait to defeat the next one!"

On a question about the sorry state of Atlantic fish-stocks, and what can be done about it, Fry stated that the ocean is warming. Therefore it is important that scientists be called upon to figure out what fish can be brought in to live in these warmer waters for the industry to fish.

Of course. Working to solve global warming and poor management of fish stocks is unnecessary when we can simply transplant tropical fish to the Grand Banks.

The debate itself:

First off, we should probably have had linguistically separate debates.

One audience member's outburst that the candidates were not speaking enough French was a warning. It was not a warning that people in the debate should be speaking more French or more English, as the immediate reaction would be, but a warning that we have made language an issue in a way it should not be.

The constant shifting of languages during answers and the inability of some candidates to speak proper French in the first place is downright annoying. If the debates were in completely separate languages, people would get a much better sense of candidates' comfort level and ability to communicate in both languages, but there would be no need to artificially self-regulate. Many candidates in this format started their answers in French, and as soon as they reached a word they were not comfortable with or did not know how to say, switched to English -- and stayed there.

I don't know the official reason for not having the debates in split languages, but I am betting it is precisely because so many of the candidates do not speak adequate French and do not want to be exposed to an environment where it becomes too painfully obvious. Whether the ability to speak French is important in a Prime Minister is subjective, but I believe it is important for a Liberal one to be able to speak both languages fluently as it is a party for all Canadians, not a regional party.

Secondly, the microphone problems are inexcusable. They happened at the first debate and were not fixed for the second debate. Candidates should be able to speak without being cut off periodically by their microphones.

With that out of the way, here is my preferential ballot, as it stands following this debate:

  1. Stéphane Dion
  2. Bob Rae
  3. Martha Hall Findlay [+1]
  4. Ken Dryden [+2]
  5. Michael Ignatieff
  6. Gerard Kennedy [-3]
  7. Scott Brison [+1]
  8. Maurizio Bevilacqua [-1]
  9. Carolyn Bennett
  10. Hedy Fry
  11. Joe Volpe

Dion and Rae continue to show themselves to be the only fluently bilingual candidates who have any substance and real plans for this country that are in line with my views. Dion's extensive federal experience, grasp of what leadership is - to lead, not to follow - and clear vision sets him apart from the pack. Rae's major liability is not his policies, his intellect, or his understanding of the needs of the future, but his one-term-wonder as an NDP premier of Ontario.

A lot of the candidates this time around spent too much time talking about how much of an evil man Harper is and far too little talking about what they have to offer in his stead.

I am very disappointed that no candidate mentioned the importance of mass public transit (commuter trains, long haul passenger trains, light rail transit, subway systems, busses, and so forth) and other forms of more energy efficient and ecological transportation in the discussion on carbon emissions and taxes. Only hybrid cars warranted special mention, but these are only a minor improvement from conventional cars for emissions.

The debate itself was passable. While very odd, the system of asking two questions at a time does allow us to get inside the candidates' heads much better than with only one question at a time. It really does allow us to see how they think and whether their minds can multi-task.

I would prefer it if more time was given to the pairwise debates. A Prime Minister spends several minutes every weekday in the commons handling a volley of tough questions which they have to answer in 35 seconds on their feet, with cameras pointed at them and every political journalist and junkie watching. They need to be able to handle debates that last more than three minutes and cover more than one single issue. It is unfortunate that there are 11 candidates, but not all of them are serious intellectuals with real ideas. Fewer, longer debates between people with serious ideas about policy and vision for the country would make it far more valuable.

The next debates will be held in Quebec and British Columbia in September, and Toronto in October, all of which will be after the closing of party memberships.

I ask that at least a couple of candidates drop out prior to the next round of debates to make this leadership race a little bit more sensible.

leadership politics 4592 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 21:55 on June 18, 2006

The Green Party Leadership Debate

Elizabeth May and David Chernushenko spent a couple of hours this evening having an argreement in French on CPAC about the leadership of the Green Party. I only caught the second half of the debate, but found what I heard to be interesting nevertheless. Jim Fannon is listed on the CPAC website as being in tonight's debate but he was evidentially a no-show, which won't help his chances much.

I haven't exactly been following the Green Party beyond giving it an occasional glance to see what they're up to, but, as every party knows, a leadership race is a good time to catch the public's attention for your party.

My first impression of Ms. May is that she would be an excellent leader of the Green Party for the established parties, and that David Chernushenko would be a decent leader for the Green's own future.

The differences are not blatant, other than in the quality of their respective spoken French, but there are nevertheless differences.

Asked about why the Green Party does not yet have a seat in the House of Commons, May blamed primarily the lack of Green representation in debates during elections. Chernushenko was more philosophical, noting that it is important for the party to get a foothold with one seat before it can expect to be in debates. The party must be built from the grass roots up.

Chernushenko says he believes that what is critical is for the Green Party to, effectively, be campaigning between elections. He says the party must go to synagogues and other places outside the party's main core of support and get its message out, so when election time comes people already know about the Greens and what it is they stand for.

May realised her weak answer and noted that Deborah Grey was elected in a by-election prior to the 1993 election, eventually resulting in her party's win in this year's election. While she doesn't agree with Grey or the Conservative-Reform Alliance Party, it's a strategy that needs to be adopted.

When asked about their opinions on strategic voting, Chernushenko had an excellent line, translated roughly as: There is no point in voting strategically if you don't have a strategy. Our strategy is to build a better country, etc. He says he would not ask any candidate not to run in an election in their riding to prevent, for example, a Conservative candidate from winning.

May's answer to the question was that we need to start voting for people, not against them.

Chernushenko's spoken French was very good, confident, and understandable. He had no trouble that I could see expressing his thoughts.

May's French, on the other hand, can be summarised by this sentence in her closing statement: "Je travaille très dûr pour le parti." It is important when speaking a second language to speak that language, not your own language with the second language's words. If you are speaking French, it is helpful to understand the difference between "connaître" and "savoir", or "dûr" and "fort" when those words are the same in English.

I am happy for the Green Party that they were actually able to have unilingual debates. I am a little bit disappointed that the Liberal debate was bilingual, sometimes switching languages every sentence. It is nice for showing off one's linguistic prowess, perhaps, or the weakness of your opponent, but for an audience that is not completely bilingual, it is not helpful.

Having only two candidates also helped the debate stay more focused and give both candidates more of an opportunity to speak at length to each issue, but it also severely reduces the options for the party membership, and reduces the level of debate and exchange of ideas outside of a soundbite-oriented leadership debates.

The next Green Party leadership debate will take place in Calgary in English on June 21st. The next Liberal leadership debate will take place on June 17th in Moncton.

leadership politics 662 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 02:47 on June 14, 2006

Analysis of the June 10th Liberal leadership debate

Yesterday afternoon I cut a day trainspotting short to watch the Liberal leadership debate live. It was a worthwhile move. The debate was an interesting one and served to introduce me to some of the candidates who I had never seen before. Here are my impressions of the candidates, in order of their seating from left to right.

Carolyn Bennett: She said one thing that struck me as being totally illogical.

She commented that a few years ago when she was in cabinet, Ontario had a particularly bad year with things like the SARS outbreak and the blackout, which places the year she was discussing at 2003. As a result of Ontario's bad year, its contribution to equalisation was down and some of the lower revenue provinces did not benefit as much from equalisation, which she indicated is a flaw with equalisation.

There is a logic problem here. The purpose of equalisation is to equalise, not to raise the have-not provinces to an unsustainable constant standard at all costs. That would not be equality. If the giving provinces are down, then the taking provinces should, naturally, receive less from them.

Her French struck me as among the weakest of the lot. Her efforts seemed to be far more directed toward trying to assemble the sentences, leaving very little mental load for inserting thoughts into those sentences. I believe it is far more important for politicians to express their ideas clearly and concisely than it is for them to speak beyond their capabilities in their second language.

Joe Volpe: His opening comments included an attack on Michael Ignatieff, specifically, over Kyoto, breaking, right from the get-go, the civility and intellectual policy discussion that has marked this campaign up until then. It somehow does not surprise me that Volpe did this as he has already shown his lack of respect for the Liberal party by taking money from Apotex through a thinly disguised veil of proxy donations from people too young even to buy party memberships.

During the pairwise debates he was in the lone threesome where I found that he attempted to dominate the debate without really contributing anything of substance.

I would have been happier if the other candidates had refused to acknowledge his existence. There is no benefit to any candidate to continue treating a liability like Volpe as an equal. He must go.

Martha Hall Findlay: This was the first time I'd seen Findlay and she struck me as the brutally honest type who says it as it is, and offers solutions.

I liked her stance on senate reform, where she noted that one elected house was ample, we don't need two. An elected senate is a politicised senate, no longer a house of "sober second thought" she warned, a position I agree with wholeheartedly.

Her shot back at Brison about how we should not govern our country based on potential New York Times headlines was fantastic.

Findlay believes that our immigration points system does not work. We have too many overqualified immigrants doing unsuitable jobs, and too many illegal immigrants doing things like construction, due to our points system. I have to agree with her. Our immigration system should be more open to people from all skillsets, not just PhDs.

Findlay moves up from an unknown to an interesting candidate.

Gerard Kennedy: This was the first time I'd seen Kennedy speak, as well, that I can remember. Aside from the disadvantage of looking kind of like Jerry Springer, he came across well. His French was the clearest of the Anglos and he seemed very comfortable in both languages.

He warned that Quebeckers can never be bought, but that Harper is trying.

He started off the debate on a good note. In his opening comments, he stated that he is not better than any of the other candidates, just that he's the right one for the times. It's a creative use of the language to get across the message that he is, in fact, better than the other candidates, but it demonstrates the valuable level of chivalry between most of the candidates in this race.

I did not find that he performed fantastically well under the pressure of the one-on-one debates.

Scott Brison: I got the distinct impression that Brison is on the far end of the party's political spectrum.

Brison believes we have an obligation to our allies to go places like Afghanistan.

His comments centred around the development of businesses and investment, and his comment about what the next morning's New York Times headline would have been if the vote on the extension of our mission to Afghanistan had been defeated placed him firmly on the right edge of the party.

Bob Rae: One of the strong intellectuals of this campaign, Rae showed himself to see the world as it is, as it should be, and how to bridge that gap.

He warned that Canada's agricultural sector needs strong government intervention and support. In the US and Europe, he said, agriculture is heavily subsidised, and that to compete on the world stage we would need to ensure that ours is, as well.

Rae noted that every province, no matter what or which, feels that it is giving more to the rest of the country than it is getting, effectively dismissing "fiscal imbalance".

Though accented, his French showed no signs of weakness that I could see, though his microphone did not seem to like hearing him...

Michael Ignatieff: When Ignatieff debated Brison one-on-one, the main impression I got was that the only real difference between the two of them is that Brison admits that he is on the right. I describe this kind of debate as an "argreement".

His comments that we need to support our troops by supporting the mission place him in a different political prism, one that is found on the South side of the border.

I believe it is possible to support our soldiers without agreeing with the mission they are performing. In fact, I believe if you don't agree with a mission, working to get soldiers out of that mission is the best way to support them. Better to have them home and alive than overseas and fighting for a cause the country as a whole does not believe in. When a debate is brought forward on the value of a mission, it should be purely about the value of that mission, on its merits, not based on any other factors.

There is no merit to sending soldiers somewhere because they are already there. It's the kind of circular logic that gets us stuck in long, protracted wars with no end in sight.

Ignatieff believes in a strengthened Canadian military, warning that we need a stronger military to be able to perform missions like Afghanistan and still be able to send troops to the war torn Sudanese region of Darfur.

On the topic of energy, Ignatieff warned that we are not the enemy of Alberta. It is important to work with Alberta to develop clean energy, instead of merely complaining about its development of its oil industry.

He was also careful to acknowledge Dion's leadership on enviromental issues.

Ignatieff's demeanour was that of a professor, which he is, who has been teaching for 30 years, which he has, who has little in the way of political experience, which is the case.

Hedy Fry: Fry's French is comparable to Bennett's. It's strained and difficult to understand.

She speaks with a lot of energy and believes in herself, which is good, though I'm not entirely sure what it is she said.

Though not significant, it is noteworthy that Fry was the only one to ask for a repeat of a question while answering it during the first part of the debate.

Maurizio Bevilacqua: Bevilacqua said he is an immigrant who sees the opportunities available for immigrants decreasing from what they were when he and his family arrived, something he would like to improve.

Ken Dryden: Not bad for a hockey player. Really. Almost a day after the debate, though, nothing he said specifically stands out in my mind.

Stéphane Dion: Last, but certainly not least!

Dion's opening quip was that he agreed with everything that had been said up to that point. Evidentally Dion is a concensus candidate.

He was the only candidate in the debate who delved into serious, specific policy ideas. He started by indicating that he feels the one percent drop in the GST, which will cost the government around $5 billion per year, could be better spent by putting $4 billion toward the national child benefit supplement and the remaining billion toward programs to otherwise help low-income Canadians.

On the topic of senate reform, he warned that the senate could not be seriously changed without changes to the constitution, but that 6 or 8 year term limits for senators could be acceptable and should be done as a kind of gentleman's agreement, possibly including signing an agreement to that effect when they are appointed. Having unlimited terms with a retirement age of 75, he said, risks not being fair to younger people who could offer a lot to the senate as they are simply unlikely to be appointed until later in life due to their age. He noted that in the current constitution, New Brunswick is guaranteed more senators than Alberta is, and that by appointing senators, proper geographical distribution can be ensured, which may not be the case under an elected senate. In short, he said, by protecting the senate from Harper's reforms, he is protecting Alberta from Stephen Harper.

Incidentally, he's been in Quebec long enough to know that saying "Constitution" is as about as bad as saying "Tabarnaque" in that province.

He was no less succinct on electoral reform: he could support a German-style mixed member proportional electoral system, he said, but described direct proportional representation as "stupid", a sentiment I agree with without reservation, though I'm no personal fan of anything that resembles proportional representation. A preferential balloting system, which the parties use for their own leadership races either directly or through a run-off vote system, is the most truely democratic system we can use if we don't wish to give up the "representative" in "representative democracy".

On the topic of the Kelowna Accord, Dion commented that Canadians don't have a problem with the very important Kelowna agreement, it's Harper that has a problem.

During his one-on-one debate with Martha Hall Findlay, he interrupted himself to give his opponent an opportunity to speak, showing a kind of good sportsmanship all politicians should demostrate but few do.

He appeared to be enjoying the debate to the point of actually offering a legitimate grin, a little known capability of this deep intellectual.

Dion remains and is reinforced for me as the best choice to lead this party and this country.

The debate itself:

Based on the debate last night I can pretty well fill out my preferential ballot for the lot, though I reserve the right to re-order it in the future.

    Acceptable leaders in order of preference:

  1. Stéphane Dion
  2. Bob Rae
  3. Gerard Kennedy
  4. Martha Hall Findlay

    The ones I'd really rather not see lead at this time:

  5. Michael Ignatieff
  6. Ken Dryden
  7. Maurizio Bevilacqua
  8. Scott Brison
  9. Carolyn Bennett
  10. Hedy Fry

    Is he still here?

  11. Joe Volpe

The format of the debate itself was a little bit odd. The moderator posed two questions at a time to be answered simultaneously by each candidate. While he did so, all the candidates scribbled furiously on little note pads, vaguely reminding me of the final round of 'Jeopardy'.

The effect of this format is it allows viewers to judge which of any pair of issues is more important to each candidate, and how each candidate can handle multi-tasking. The first two questions asked about bilingualism and about farming, for example, and it sounded to me like Joe Volpe's answer was something along the lines of 'it is important for farms to be able to operate in French'.

CPAC's broadcast of the debate was translated by a simultaneous translator, as are most programs on CPAC, much to my annoyance. I would find a 'floor sound' option much more beneficial than chasing the politicians back and forth between primary and secondary audio, without requiring the use of unreliable video streams on the Internet.

There is probably a good deal more to say about this debate, but there will be more debates and more opportunities to revisit them.

At the next debate, I hope the threesome will be Bob Rae, Ken Dryden, and Gerard Kennedy, and that Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion can get a one-on-one in.

I am looking forward to next weekend's debate which will take place in Moncton. Questions for that debate must be submitted by the 14th. See the Liberal party web site for more information on how to submit questions.

leadership politics 2158 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 15:56 on June 11, 2006

May 19th, 2006

Like a handful of other bloggers, I got a ping from someone offering an interview with Stéphane Dion for this blog, so it got me thinking about the leadership race again. It turns out this blog is listed on this site under the Dion camp in the great leadership blog-off.

So I'd like to address the leadership race a bit here...

On Stéphane Dion, the Clarity act, and his English:

I don't think Dion will have any trouble stemming from the Clarity Act. The people who won't vote for him based on that won't vote liberal anyway - it'll either be for the Bloc, or for a decentralist party like the tories. The Canadian nationalists (aka federalists) in Quebec will flock to anyone who will stand up for their side of the 'sovereignty' debate.

Chrétien proved that you can be relatively unpopular at home in Quebec and still rake in majority governments. People outside Quebec have never minded the accent, and Dion's accent in English is much better than Harper's accent in French. I think Canadians have been and are above judging a person by his accent. We're a bilingual country and I don't think anyone (who would vote liberal) holds that against the candidates.

People have complained about Dion's lack of charisma, but I disagree. He's charismatic in an intellectual way. Harper, too, is an intellectual who has the charisma of a rock and it is not hurting him at all. I believe Paul Martin's obvious artificial charisma and politicking have turned Canadians off this approach to politics for the forseeable future. Charisma is not a requirement, but intellect is.

On Toronto:

My main problem with most of the other candidates is they're almost all from COTU -- Toronto, or the Centre of the Universe -- and I believe have a clouded perspective of the country because of that. Toronto is an enormous place and it's easy to forget there's a Canada outside of it. It's no accident Toronto voted overwhelmingly for the incumbent and a large proportion of the rest of the province voted for the challenger in the recent election.

On Michael Ignatieff

The major exception is Ignatieff, who's simply been AWOL for thirty years teaching at one of the most conceited schools in the world, and expects to return like a deposed leader returning from exile to save the country. On the other hand that may also be his strength - he has not been corrupted by Canadian politics over the last generation, but has instead been corrupted by American politics. He simply has no track record that I can discern other than a few votes in parliament.

One thing we do know about him is that he supported the war in Iraq (though he has since changed his mind) which I don't believe, and never believed, was necessary or justified. I marched in the pre-war anti-war protests and I stand by that opinion to this day. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the US government's motives for going to war are related to money and power, possibly in preparation for a long cold war with China, not with any philanthropic goals.

I may consider Ignatieff next time around after he's been at home a little while and has settled into the Canadian political scene a little more comfortably.

On Bob Rae

I lived in Quebec, not Ontario, at the time, and was a little too young to pay much attention anyway. But from what I understand from people I have talked to since, two major issues killed Rae in his public support when he was premier of Ontario:

  1. Photo radar. Highway 401 has an average speed, I was told in a defensive driving course, of about 140 km/h. Premier Rae put photo radar in the province tuned to 118 km/h, causing fines for anyone who drove at standard highway speeds. As the budget got tighter, this number was dropped to 108 km/h. I don't care how idealogically aligned I am with a government, an act like that is just plain insulting (speed limits warrant a blog post all of their own.)
  2. His true common sense revolution. From what I understand, Rae's government gave every civil servant in the province a couple of days off -- unpaid. While this was unpopular, this ingenious solution allowed the government to avoid laying off thousands of public employees. When Harris came along with his common sense revolution, he didn't give anyone any more unpaid days off -- he just fired a large number of civil servants, instead. You decide which one makes more sense.

Rae seems like an intelligent policy man who, like Ignatieff and Dion, lacks much in the way of charisma, but makes up for it intellectually. He is definitely my second choice for the federal leadership, from the options available.

On Hedy Fry

Burning crosses. Say no more.

On Scott Brison

I first heard of him when he was running against David Orchard, Belinda Stronach, et al., for the tory leadership. Definitely a Red Tory, it wasn't much of a surprise when he bailed out of the no longer progressive Conservative party and joined the liberals. I don't believe Brison is serious (yet) about running the Liberal praty, but by staying in the public eye, he is trying to ensure himself a higher profile and a more prominent role in any future Liberal government, and ultimately a better chance in a future leadership race. To that end, I think he will succeed and I look forward to him returning to a federal cabinet.

On the others

There are at least five other declared candidates in the race. I have not seen enough of any of them to really judge them. I have been told I should watch Ken Dryden who, in spite of his hockey background, is supposed to be the fourth leading intellectual in this race (with Dion, Ignatieff, and Rae).

On Gerard Kennedy, Martha Hall Findlay, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Carolyn Bennett, and Joe Volpe? No opinion.

Other candidates who should have, but didn't, run:

I leave you with that thought.

leadership politics 1104 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 17:07 on May 19, 2006

April 7th, 2006

I'd just like to note that Stéphane Dion has my support for the liberal leadership. As Trudeau, Mulroney, and Chrétien demonstrate, you not only have to pander to Quebec to win majority governments: you have to be from there, though you don't have to be liked there. We also need someone who supports a green economy in a position of influence (which, in spite of their enlarging ego, the NDP does not have and won't until they completely disocciate themselves from unions and stop acting like over-excited children who were just given ice cream.)

I find it somewhat ironic that Paul Martin was born in Windsor and moved to Montreal, Jack Layton is from Montreal and moved to Toronto, and Stephen Harper is from Toronto and moved to Alberta.

Oh yeah, and Harper & company... the election is over. You don't have to answer every liberal question with 'blah blah blah liberals bad! us good!' No polls have shown that you won for any reason other than people wanted something new. It has nothing to do with your policies, it's almost farcical to even call your thin victory a mandate, and it accomplishes nothing. Stop being sore winners.

leadership politics 201 words - whole entry and permanent link. Posted at 12:25 on April 07, 2006

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