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Recent entries

  1. A podcast with Michael Geist on technology and politics
  2. Next steps
  3. On what electoral reform reforms
  4. 2019 Fall campaign newsletter / infolettre campagne d'automne 2019
  5. 2019 Summer newsletter / infolettre été 2019
  6. 2019-07-15 SECU 171
  7. 2019-06-20 RNNR 140
  8. 2019-06-17 14:14 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  9. 2019-06-17 SECU 169
  10. 2019-06-13 PROC 162
  11. 2019-06-10 SECU 167
  12. 2019-06-06 PROC 160
  13. 2019-06-06 INDU 167
  14. 2019-06-05 23:27 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  15. 2019-06-05 15:11 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  16. older entries...

Latest comments

Michael D on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
Steve Host on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
G. T. on Abolish the Ontario Municipal Board
Anonymous on The myth of the wasted vote
fellow guelphite on Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute

Links of interest

  1. 2009-03-27: The Mother of All Rejection Letters
  2. 2009-02: Road Worriers
  3. 2008-12-29: Who should go to university?
  4. 2008-12-24: Tory aide tried to scuttle Hanukah event, school says
  5. 2008-11-07: You might not like Obama's promises
  6. 2008-09-19: Harper a threat to democracy: independent
  7. 2008-09-16: Tory dissenters 'idiots, turds'
  8. 2008-09-02: Canadians willing to ride bus, but transit systems are letting them down: survey
  9. 2008-08-19: Guelph transit riders happy with 20-minute bus service changes
  10. 2008=08-06: More people riding Edmonton buses, LRT
  11. 2008-08-01: U.S. border agents given power to seize travellers' laptops, cellphones
  12. 2008-07-14: Planning for new roads with a green blueprint
  13. 2008-07-12: Disappointed by Layton, former MPP likes `pretty solid' Dion
  14. 2008-07-11: Riders on the GO
  15. 2008-07-09: MPs took donations from firm in RCMP deal
  16. older links...

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 - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 10:35 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 - permanent link - comments: 8. Posted at 16:29 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 - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 09:32 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 - permanent link - comments: 10. Posted at 09:56 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 - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:28 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 - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 09:04 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 - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 11:14 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 - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:06 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 - permanent link - comments: 14. Posted at 14:36 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 - permanent link - comments: 8. Posted at 14:50 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 - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:16 on December 04, 2006

Brison's Hat Trick

Prentice, Rae, Ignatieff.

leadership 6 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 00:07 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 - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 14:50 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 - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 08:31 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 - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 18:59 on October 22, 2006

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