Joining the At Issue bandwagon
I watched the National's At Issue panel last night and have read a number of blog entries today with their own answers to Peter Mansbridge's questions. Some of my answers are a bit different from most, so here goes...
Best Political Play
Paul Martin stepping down immediately as the leader of the Liberal party on election night as soon as the defeat was obvious, in spite of his own continued ambition, was the single greatest act of leadership of his time as leader. It will allow the Liberal party to heal its wounds and get back on its feet much faster and more successfully than if he had stayed on for any length of time. It provides the party with its first opportunity since Pierre Trudeau to elect as its leader someone other than the second place finisher from the previous race and makes it more difficult for the current government to know who it will be up against in the future.
Martin avoided making the mistake that John Turner made by staying around and facilitating Mulroney's tenure in office. His resignation has also served to reduce Stephen Harper's ability to hold a snap election in his first few months in office due to the Canadian tradition of not holding elections during leadership races (though the day after they're over seems to be fair game). Whether this remains the case has yet to be seen, but it will at least make it more difficult.
Worst Political Play
The Conservative party went to the governing side of the house after having spent years criticising the Liberal party for its lack of any plan for the environment and achieving our Kyoto targets. Once there, they went to the international community and announced that Canada would not honour its Kyoto commitments. Further, the Conservative government, after years of criticism, has no plan of its own. At all. They have been talking for months of a "made in Canada" plan for enviornmental change but have so far announced no such plan, saying they will have one... eventually.
A google search for "Canada Kyoto targets" yields several matches at "climatechange.gc.ca", a Government of Canada website. All of these documents found now return the ubiquitous "404 not found" error.
While this may not affect the Conservative party in the short term, it is likely the worst political play for both the Conservative party and for Canada at large for a long time to come, as we will continue to destroy our environment, and foreign countries may no longer take us at our word when we sign accords.
Most Significant Political Moment
The most significant political moment of the last 'academic' year was the Tories winning the January 23rd election.
This event was highly significant because, firstly, it signalled the impending end of the Bloc Quebecois as a political force in Ottawa. The party now in power shares their agenda of decentralisation and takes the teeth out of their arguments about any federal government shortcomings as far as providing Quebec with what it wants. The Bloc knows this, and will likely fight as hard as it can to avoid any election for as long as it can, while being careful to look like the Conservatives are the evil, the bad, the fédéral.
Secondly, after running a blunder-free campaign in the face of a suboptimal Liberal campaign, the Tories were only able to muster a net gain of a mere 26 seats in the commons, after having the inverse scenario at the previous election. The Liberals dropped by 32 seats, and the Bloc dropped by three, with most of the remaining gain going, interestingly, to the New Democratic Party.
Stéphane Dion, to me, is the obvious pick here. Some may accuse me of bias because I am supporting his leadership campaign, but there is a cause-and-effect problem here. I am supporting his campaign because I think he is the obvious pick in this category (and others), not the other way around.
My feeling about Dion is that with Chrétien and Martin gone, and a leadership race in which he can participate now here, his shackles are off. Speaking about the environment in a meaningful way under Martin is only slightly more effective than doing so under Harper. One of Martin's first acts as Prime Minister was to axe $700M of capital funding to Via Rail which would have served to expand and improve our ever-environmentally-important national passenger rail network. Under that kind of faux leadership, an environmentalist and academic like Dion can only sit and wait for his chance. He has it now, and people are being surprised left and right by his charismatic and spirited campaign.
Don Newman still doesn't mention his name when talking about the 'perceived frontrunners' on Politics, but let me assure you that he is.
My pick for the most overrated politician of the last year is astronaut Marc Garneau. He was brought in as a star candidate on the West Island of Montreal, likely intended to bring in the huge space cadet vote, and fizzled, commenting to a reporter after his election defeat something along the lines of, "I'm unemployed."
Ralph Klein's successor as premier of Alberta will have big shoes to fill and a plateful of non-obvious problems. The province has had over three decades of Tory rule and is in the midst of the largest localised economic bubble in Canadian history. As the population of the province grows by leaps and bounds and its budget surplus surpasses the budget deficits of the rest of the provinces combined, the new premier of Alberta will have to tread very carefully both within the province and outside of it.
For the first time in the course of this boom, the Prime Minister is from Alberta and not from central Canada. Having an Alberta Prime Minister means the standard arguments of "western alienation" when the central government inevitably has to do something about the unbalance between Alberta and the rest of the country won't work. The West is in charge now, and the relationship between Alberta and Ottawa is going to get a whole lot more complicated.
When is the next election and how does Stephen Harper orchestrate it?
I would be very surprised if the next election takes place next spring. I predict that Harper will try to bring down his own government this fall, after delegate selection for the Liberal leadership convention, and before it takes place in an unexpected move. Whether he succeeds will have more to do with the Bloc than anyone else, but he may succeed in bringing his own government down in spite of them.
In a cheeky move, I expect that Harper will attempt to use the issue of fixed election dates as a "confidence motion" to bring down the government ahead of its time.
Posted at 14:56 on June 23, 2006
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