Friday, September 30, 2005

Playing Politics

The National Post seems to have beat all the other dailies on an internal Liberal strategy for once - which is likely more strange than the story itself.

Nevertheless, the hot rumour they splashed across their front page today is that the Liberals will be introducing "balanced budget" legislation that will force governments forever and ever to maintain a contingency fund.

Now, I understand why the Liberals are doing this after complaints the NDP has forced them into reckless spending commitments. But balanced budget laws are ridiculous. You're tying the hands of a future government when the economic conditions could be very different than they are today. We've just seen two hurricanes slam into the US and you never know when natural disasters or terrorist attacks could force Canada into a temporary deficit situation. Yes, I'm sure they will build in exceptions to the law, but an economic downturn might force a temporary deficit to stimulate the economy. And remember, historians have been rather unkind of RB Bennett and WLMK for their unwillingness to deficit spend during the depression.

Governments know that running deficits in the current economic climate is unwise and unpopular. So why make a law for it? Why not legislate into law that a certain percentage of the GDP must be spent on the arts every year? Why not mandate the total paperclip budget for the House of Commons into law?

There's no need to tie the hands of future governments. The only reason for a law like this is to score a few cheap points with the electorate.

Staying Put

Smart on Peter to give up his dreams of returning to the potato farm to stay in Ottawa. Having the former leader of the PCs leave right before the election would have likely been a death blow to the Conservatives and to Stephen Harper.

It also would have been a poor career move. I wouldn't count the Tories out yet, but there's at least a 50/50 chance they'll lose the next election (and that's being wildly optimistic) and if they do, Harper is gone and MacKay is the frontrunner to replace him, with only one real challenger. And once he does, he'll be up against a tired leader twice his age who voters have only been re-electing due to an absence of alternatives. When Brian Tobin and Jean Charest answered to call to come home, they were nowhere near becoming Prime Minister - MacKay is.

Of course, was it ever really in doubt? After all, what kind of person would bolt from a new party so soon after they helped to create it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Good Day For Some Scandal

David Dingwall and Tom DeLay both find themselves in trouble today, giving cause for celebration to both the left and right. In both cases, it's likely best to withhold judgment since, until more is known, any comment is likely going to be a case of blind partisanship.

Speaking of scandal, the Adscam trials now look like they'll be pushed back until after the election. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this decision, it's definitely good news for the Liberals since Brault and Guité have been nothing but trouble for Paul Martin in the past. Having media coverage of their trials during an election campaign would have been a big boost for the opposition.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, since we're talking about scandal, remember the good old days when this was the biggest of Paul Martin's worries?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Royal Pain In The Ass

With all the hullaballo around Michaelle Jean and her FLQ friends, the debate over the position of Governor General has been put on the backburner. But it’s still a debate worth having. So I’ll come out and say it bluntly – we should abolish the Monarchy.

I recognize the support may not be there for it right now but it’s hard to argue we’re not heading in that direction. When cases were being made for different politicians in the Greatest PM contest, I was shocked by the number of “legacy” items related to Canada asserting it’s independence for Great Britain: confederation, signing for ourselves in Versailles, the Statute of Westminster, Canadian flag, repatriation of the constitution. Our history has been a gradual move towards complete Canadian sovereignty and the logical conclusion to that is to replace the Queen with a Canadian head of state.

Although the head of state is merely symbolic, I really have issues with what it symbolizes on two levels. Firstly, having a British head of state implies we’re not a full fledged independent country. Some Canadians may still feel strongly about our ties to Great-Britain but do French Canadians? Do immigrants? Canadians from India may not have fond memories of the crown. Canada is no longer a British country and it’s time we brought our institutions up to speed with reality.

Secondly, and most importantly, the Monarchy is a hereditary institution. It says that certain people are better than others from birth. To me, this is completely contradictory to the values of most Canadians (and most Britons too, I'd wager). If we had a Canadian head of state, no one would advocate making it a hereditary position so why do we put up with it in the current situation?

It may not be worth the hassle to abolish the Monarchy right now but the only reason to keep it around is out of a sense of tradition. And generally if that’s the only reason to keep something around, it’s likely not worth preserving.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday Roundup

Some political news stories to start your week off:

-The Hill Times mentioned how the Liberals are contemplating a fall election...interesting only since every newspaper in Canada gave prominent attention to Martin's "no to a fall election" speech this morning.

-Lorrie Goldstein pokes a bit of fun at the Tories and Preston Manning's "Conservative University" idea.

-John McCallum continues to be Mr.Fix It - if a a Cabinet post needs filling or an opposition leader needs heckling, he's the man for the job. McCallum is in, and Efford is out, as Minister of Natural Resources.

-The Herald has some interesting reaction to Klein's rebate idea. Apparently those pinko big government Calgarians are opposed to Ralph's rebate plan, while right wing, free enterprise Edmonton is divided on the idea. As a whole, the province seems rather underwhelmed by the proposal.

And We're Back!

Yes, it's that time of the year again. The time when notes are passed, gossip is spread and a young MP's heart turns to question period and confidence vote: The House has returned.

Hacks and Wonks has the QP summary up, but it just doesn't feel like Parliament is running, without Don Newman and Politics. So, for anyone who is starting to feel the cold harsh sting of the CBC lock-out, here's a "30 second virtual Politics":

"Welcome to the broooooaaaaadcast...I'm trying to be fair on time...let so and so answer...(groundless election speculation)...The Liberals are corrupt Scott...The NDP is out of touch Jamey...Stephen Harper is facing a rebellion Tim...(groundless election speculation) can watch politics on the web...join us tomorrow morning at 10:30..."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The One Where CG Says Something Nice About Joe Volpe...

While I’ve been none too kind to Joe Volpe in the past, I was very pleased to see this.

With an aging population, low unemployment, and a shortage in human capital, the Canadian government has two options:

1. Mandatory breeding
2. An increase in immigration

While I'm intrigued by the first option, reaching the 1% target is a smart policy decision that has been a long time coming.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Shoot the Messenger

Harper said he will win the next election not through the media, but by reaching
out to people locally.

I'd be very curious to hear what Conservatives think about this. The media has been pretty important for politicians over the last...oh, I don't know...75 years.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Money for Nothing

While I don't support the idea of Ralph's 400$ rebate cheque, I'm going to get the cash regardless, so I've begun to think of fun ways to spend it. Among the possibilities:

Go to a nearest shelter and throw it at homeless people

Buy Stephen Harper a descent cowboy outfit

Have one meal with Joe Volpe (or, failling that, buy him his first pair of jeans)

Buy Andre Boisclair a Christmas present (4 or 5 grams worth of a Christmas present, that is)

Get Gurmant Grewal some better audio editing equipment

Hire one of Gary Marr's lobbyist friends...for 2 or 3 hours

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Around the Globe

Several things caught my eye this morning in the Globe & Mail - among the highlights:

1. Everyone is talking about Paul Martin's big "vision" speech he gave yesterday. I may post a bit more on it later but my initial reaction is positive. Martin's biggest problem is that he looks like a guy who has wanted to be Prime Minister his entire life...for the sake of being Prime Minister. He hasn't shown any vision whatsoever and the only time his government ever performs well is when they're in damage control. So it was extremely refreshing to see the beginnings of a coherent plan about where he wants to take the country. Was it a perfect speech? Of course not. But it's a big step in the right direction. And I was very pleased to see the talk of immigration - there's no reason we shouldn't have hit the 1% immigration target a long time ago. As for his immigration minister...

2. It looks like Pierre Pettigrew isn't the only Liberal taking full advantage of his expense account. Joe Volpe is in hot water for spending taxpayer dollars on expensive meals. I don't want to come out and say he's using government dollars to woe people to his leadership campaign, but I wouldn't argue with anyone else who jumped to that conclusion.

3. PQ golden boy Andre Boisclair is in hot water over his admitted use of cocaine while he was a Cabinet Minister. While it's true that being on drugs is likely the only way to see the economic benefits of Quebec's session, it's not generally something you want in a Premier. It's also likely not a good idea for Boisclair to answer questions about his cocaine use with "I am under a great deal of stress." He's really opening the door for smart ass comments on that one.

4. Speaking of Premiers with addiction problems, Ralph Klein has announced every Albertan will get a 400$ rebate cheque this Christmas! I'd be very curious to see if anyone out there could think up a less inspiring way to spend Alberta's surplus. I'm open to any suggestions.

5. The Liberals will not meet their deadline on proposed electoral reforms. Obviously the solution is to appoint another Minister in charge of democratic reform.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And The Winner Is...

In a 403-340 decision, the tournament's number 4 seed, Wilfrid Laurier, has emerged as the winner of the Greatest Prime Minister.

After cruising through Arthur Meighen, Jean Chretien, and Mackenzie King, Laurier finally found a tough fight but managed to maintain around 55% of the vote throughout the week.

Unlike other polarizing figures (*cough*Trudeau*cough*), Laurier is still respected by both liberals and conservatives alike today. While Macdonald oversaw the birth of Canada, Laurier led the country through prosperous years, at a time when Canada really started to come of age. He was a nation builder - moving us away from Britain and towards the US, bringing the West into Canada, and welcoming in thousands of immigrants.

Laurier championed the "sunny compromise", resolving what could have been explosive English/French disputes by searching for the middle ground. As the first French Canadian Prime Minister, Laurier changed the very nature of confederation by ensuring that Quebec would have a voice at the national level. He also changed the very nature of politics by turning the Liberal Party into Canada's dominant political machine.

You could make a list of accomplishments for any of the final four in this contest as impressive as Laurier's. What likely pushed him over the top is the admiration that Canadians feel for Laurier, the person. He was a man of principle, going down in defeat over free trade and conscription. In an age when there is a startling lack of vision among our national leaders, Laurier had a vision: "The 20th century will belong to Canada".

Previous Posts in "The Greatest Prime Minister" contest:
The Voters Speak - Macdonald vs Laurier
PM Rankings - Various rankings of all the Prime Ministers
The Great One - Announcing the final round matchup
Back To The Beginning - Semi-Final results
King of the World - A case for Mackenzie King
When Nation Builders Collide - Profile on the Trudeau/Macdonald matchup
Semi-Finals - Announcing the semi-final matchups
Final Four - Quarter-final results
The Elite Eight - Quarter-final matchups announced
Round One Results - Round one results (duh)
Borden vs Pearson - A profile of the first round Borden/Pearson matchup
Greatest Prime Minister - The contest is launched

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday Roundup

1. In an article in today's Globe about how Elections Canada deals with those who accidentally break election rules, they mentioned that Jean Lapierre got in a bit of trouble for showing his ballot to a TV camera. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the infraction didn't occur on October 30th, 1995.

2. There's some more in The Hill Times about the "rebel" Conservatives in Quebec, calling for Harper to resign. As I said earlier this week, the people speaking publicly against Harper are those in the party who never supported him and have little influence on the CPC. And as Paul Wells comments here, there are far more credible Liberals who previously supported Paul that are none too pleased with his performance. I don't really buy into the whole "media bias" argument the right constantly raises, but there's certainly a mob mentality in the media right now against Harper.

3. Hanging Chads anyone? Germany is in for a very interesting few weeks of political haggling and deal making.

4. We're hearing more and more noise about a November election from all parties. I suspect Tony Valeri is going to be very careful in his scheduling of opposition days during October.

5. The latest Leger poll has the liberals at 40%, including a shocking 34% in Alberta (which translates to...I'd guess one seat). Before people get too giddy, there are 20% undecided, the Quebec numbers are still ugly, and over 50% of Canadians are dissatisfied with Paul's leadership. Still, the potential is there for a big pickup in BC which could make up for any losses in La Belle Province.

The poll also has a few other goodies included in it. Ralph Klein and Jean Charest are the most popular provincial premiers...Charest's popularity is mostly outside his own province but it's surprising to see Klein doing so well nationally. The fact that 75% of Canadians have no opinion on Bernard Lord raises some questions about his label as CPC saviour.

The poll also says that 52% of voters feel it's time to move on to other issues besides Gomery...they spin this as good news, but that means that 48% of Canadians are still hung up on it.

Interestingly, 45% of Canadians favour the opposition defeating the Liberals this fall, while only 41% oppose this. So this means that last spring when everyone hated the Liberals, no one wanted an election but now that everyone likes them, people want one. To me this shows some major problems with either the Canadian electorate or public opinion polls.

Down to the Wire

One day left until the Greatest Prime Minister contest crowns a winner. At noon Mountain tomorrow, the poll will close and a winner will be announced.

The two finalists both shared a vision of what Canada could be and did everything they could to fulfill that dream. They both left the country in far, far better shape than when they took it over.

Greatest Prime Minister - Final Round
Final Matchup
(2) John A. MacDonald
(4) Wilfrid Laurier

(view results)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You Know Things Are Bad When...

...Bill Clinton breaks US protocol by criticizing another President. Remember, this is a guy who is best friends forever with Bush Sr. and has been very hesitant to speak loudly against Bush Jr. in the past.

Vive L'Alberta Libre!

Courtesy of Progressive Calgary, comes the link to a constitution for an independent Alberta someone with way too much time on their hands has written up. This separatist group has gone over every single detail of an independent Alberta - for example, elections will be held the first Monday of every April. None too surprisingly the distribution of powers bears a striking resemblance to the American model and I was shocked, shocked I say, that gay rights are mentioned nowhere.

After browsing the constitution, I must say I'm a little disapointed in this group in certain fields: Nothing on mandatory firearms for all citizens...nothing on a 50 foot gold statue of Ralph pledge of allegiance to Peter Lougheed...

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Voters Speak

Various comments from the four rounds of voting, on the two finalists:

Macdonald and Laurier, I think, are equally indispensable to Canada's evolution as a nation. Without Macdonald, Canada would have collapsed and fallen under the influence of the United States. Without Laurier, the Tories post-Macdonald would have continued to rule, and they weren't exactly what you could call promoters of a strong Canadian identity.

Macdonald is probably the most corrupt prime minister in history.

For his time, [Macdonald] was actually quite progressive in many areas. He was an Ontario Protestant who was quite willing to tolerate Quebec Catholics - which put him at odds with the Orange Lodge. He even wanted to extend the vote to women and natives who owned property.

To be fair I'll state that Laurier probably received a fair bit of right wing support as well. If you examine his political views I'd say they would likely be deemed "right wing" by today's perspective. He ran an entire election on the basis of free trade, and was quite classically liberal in his perspective. While I'm critical of his construction of railroads after the initial line simply because it was a "popular" thing to do.

I'm a modern conservative yet a classic liberal. I'm voting for Laurier because he represents my view of the country.
1. Success based on merits
2. Independence from Britain
3. Free trade
It's funny, if both MacDonald and Laurier were around today I'm quite sure that MacDonald would be the Liberal and Laurier the Conservative.

And in that final vote, I'd say that Macdonald had the more significant accomplishments (i.e. creating the country and getting the railway done) but that Laurier was the better man (personally and philosophically), and he gets my vote on that basis.

By not allowing the NW to become one large province or even two (Buffalo which would be Alberta and the western half of Sask, and Manitoba which would contain the eastern half of Sask) [Laurier] preserved the dominance of the Great Lakes/St Lawerence regions. He may have listened to western concerns but he made sure that the CPR kept its monopoly, and MacDonald's National Policy remained in place to stifle any attempt to get cheaper goods from the US.

Our historical distance from Macdonald allows us to gloss over his vicious partisanship and if you think the current Liberals or Mulroney's Conservatives were corrupt, my GAWD, but this drunkard was. So our history books gloss over a lot of bad stuff with Macdonald and our memories won't let us forget a lot of bad stuff about Mulroney. HOWEVER, the man founded the nation and his National Policy created the architecture of business and government partnerships that have defined the growth of the nation.

[Laurier] spoke of a vision of a united, growing, independent Canada. He did in fact unite the country - French, English and previously ignored Western farmers - until the British war disrupted everything. He had foresight about where Canada's future lay - in North America - and advocated reciprocity (a sort of freer trade).

Macdonald created Canada. He brought English and French together. He built a railroad that connected the West coast. He started our equalization program by giving money to the Maritimes. He was a true statesman who deserves praise for keeping all of British North America out of the United States.

Laurier cemented what Macdonald started. He made French-Canadians truly part of the nation. He built a second railroad to expand on what Macdonald started. He began the process of asserting an international role for Canada. He oversaw one of the greatest times of growth in Canadian history. He ensured that the conscription crisis in WWI was a political issue so that Quebecers had a political outlet for their frustration. He ensured that Canada's foundations remained strong.

Greatest Prime Minister - Final Round
Final Matchup
(2) John A. MacDonald
(4) Wilfrid Laurier

(view results)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Invisible Hand

Adrienne Clarkson is now hinting that she may have played a role in the non-confidence vote insanity we saw earlier this spring:

"You may be surprised and interested to know that I am really glad to have participated in (a minority government)," Clarkson said in a speech Wednesday, her largest final engagement and a farewell of sorts.

"My constitutional role has lain in what are called 'reserve powers:' making sure that there is a prime minister and a government in place, and exercising the right 'to encourage, to advise, and to warn,' " she said.

"Without really revealing any secrets, I can tell you that I have done all three."

Feel free to suggest your own theory, but it sounds to me like she talked to Martin after the Liberals lost the "non non-confidence" vote and told him he had to hold a definitive vote of confidence within a week.

PM Rankings

As part of the final round of Greatest Prime Minister, here are several rankings of Canadian PM's I've managed to collect (once again, Bastards and Boneheads proved to be a great source for this).

The Maclean's Study

1.William Lyon Mackenzie King
2. Sir John A. Macdonald
3. Sir Wilfrid Laurier

4. Louis Saint-Laurent

5. Pierre Elliott Trudeau
6. Lester Pearson
7. Sir Robert Borden

8. Brian Mulroney
9. Jean Chrétien*
10. Sir John Thompson
11. Alexander Mackenzie
12. R.B. Bennett
13. John Diefenbaker

14. Arthur Meighen
15. Joe Clark

16. Sir Charles Tupper
17. Sir John Abbott
18. John Turner
19. Sir Mackenzie Bowell
20. Kim Campbel

*this study was done in 1997

Brian Mulroney Ranking
1. John A. MacDonald
2. Brian Mulroney
(3-21 are ambiguous, although Pierre Trudeau is near the bottom)

Canadian Mint Ranking
Borden 100$
King 50$
Macdonald 10$
Laurier 5$

Bastards and Boneheads Ranking

1. Macdonald
2. Trudeau

The High-Averages:
3. King
4. Laurier
5. Borden
6. St. Laurent
7. Pearson

The Adequates:
8. Mackenzie
9. Thompson

The Disasters:
10. Bennett
11. Diefenbaker
12. Mulroney

My Own Personal Rankings
Yes, I'm aware of my bias, but this is how I'd put the list together
1. Trudeau
2. Macdonald
3. Laurier
4. King
5. Chretien
6. Borden
7. Pearson
8. St. Laurent
9. Diefenbaker
10. Thompson
11. Mackenzie
12. Bennett
13. Clark
14. Mulroney
15. Meighen
16. Tupper
17. Abbott
18. Turner
19. Bowell
20. Campbell

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Poor Timing

Paul Wells has the letter from the dissident Quebec Tories up on his website, while the Globe & Mail covers the story in today's paper. For those who haven't read up on it yet, three former and current Conservative candidates in Quebec and one organizer have demanded that Stephen Harper step down as leader of the Conservative Party.

As putschs go, this one is pretty pathetic - for three reasons.

1. The Demand: It makes absolutely no sense for Harper to step down now. Yes, I know I said it would be in the best interest of the CPC if he resigned back in June, but that was then. Parliament will be opening in two weeks and there isn't time for the Conservatives to find a new leader before the next election. More importantly, it only makes sense to call for a leader to resign if you think there's a chance he will actually do so. Harper didn't step down over the summer so it's obvious that, rightly or wrongly, he's resolved to lead the Conservatives in the next election. Since Harper will stay on, public comments like this can only hurt the Party and have zero chance of accomplishing any good.

2. The Messengers: The four behind this admit they didn't support Harper for leadership so already this shouldn't be seen as a bold statement on their part. After all, 16% of the party voted against him in leadership review so it's not a miracle that four of those members stepped forward. Lucien Richard garnered a whooping 8% of the vote last election, slightly ahead of Payam Eslami's 6%, good for a fourth place finish. And I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Monsieur Remillard won't do much better. The fact is, these are people the Conservatives have put up as candidates in sacrificial ridings. If the CPC in Quebec is the same as the Liberal Party in Alberta, I imagine anyone who wants a nomination in a riding like that, gets it. If the Liberal candidates in Crowfoot, Macleod, and Peace River came out demanding Paul Martin resign, it would mean absolutely nothing. People who run in ridings like this aren't necessarily "key" members of the party.

3. The Message: To make matters worse, their letter isn't overly convincing. They claim that the Liberals would win a majority government under current conditions, bringing to five the number of Canadians who believe this (David Herle being the other one). They say that "we will never win the next election" and I wouldn't even be certain of that.

I'm not a fan of Harper and it likely would be in the best interest of his party if they had someone else leading them. But no one should put any stock into a letter from four nobodies in the CPC.

The Great One

After three weeks of voting, the field is down to two: John A. Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's first two long-serving PMs. While it's tempting to imagine this vote will break down on Liberal/Conservative lines, these are leaders from a time when the words meant something different. Laurier championed provincial rights and supported free trade. Macdonald believed in government intervention and created the tariff to help Ontario business.

I have no idea which of the two will win, but you can make a good case for either. And that's exactly what I'll be trying to do over the next week.

(4) Laurier (def Meighen 76-24, def Chretien 75-25, def King 66-34)
(2) Macdonald (def Campbell 92-8, def Mulroney 73-27, def Trudeau 65-35)

Greatest Prime Minister - Final Round
Final Matchup
(2) John A. MacDonald
(4) Wilfrid Laurier

(view results)

Second Chances

Some of you in Alberta may remember the saga of Chris Kiebermanis, the 26 year old construction worker who won Edmonton-Castle-Downs for the Alberta Liberals last November (provincially), then won recount after recount, before the courts finally awarded the riding to the Tory candidate.

Well, as proof that you do sometimes get second chances, Kiebermanis' riding association will be nominating him as their candidate for the next provincial election tonight. Kierbermanis took his defeat with grace last January and with several years to campaign, he'll be extremelly well positioned to take the riding next time.

He Bugs Us Still

I was going to make a pithy comment about Brian now feeling "betrayed" yet again but there's a pretty fair discussion going on about Newman's ethics over at Bound By Gravity. Check it out.

Instead, I'm going to put up what I judge to be one of the better "inadvertent misprints" of the year. From the CP story on Mulroney's legacy (via Kinsella):

And that's the difference between Mulroney's government and the 12 years of tranquil Liberal rule that followed, says LeBreton.

Mulroney swung for the fences with great national projects such as free trade and noble initiatives like apartheid, she said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Back to the Beginning

The final is set, and it will feature a clash between two Canadians whose leadership as Prime Minister no one voting in this poll experienced (I'm going out on a limb to guess there are very few 100 year olds reading this blog).

(1) Mackenzie King (424) 33.57%
(4) Wilfrid Laurier (839) 66.43%

(2) John A. Macdonald (896) 64.55%
(3) Pierre Trudeau (492) 35.45%

While Laurier cruised to a victory in his matchup, Macdonald got a huge boost from the right (slogan: "winning Internet polls, not elections, since 1993") over the last two days to break a dead heat with Trudeau. While I'm a big Trudeau fan myself, John A. Macdonald is certainly a very deserving finalist, as is Wilfrid Laurier.

The final poll will be posted tomorrow and, once again, you will be able to vote once a day, until next Tuesday at noon, when the final winner will be announced. Throughout the week, I'll be posting bios, and arguments for and against the two finalists. I think you can make a very good case for either of them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Great Canadian Blog Survey

If you have a moment, head over to Grandinite, and fill out The Great Canadian Blog Survey.

Monday Roundup

1. The final Gomery report won't be released until February 1st. So, if Paul's plan holds, that likely means we're looking at an April vote. BUT...

...the preliminary report will still come out November 1st. Given that the preliminary report will be the messy one assigning blame and the final report will just have recommendations to fix the program, the opposition parties would much rather run with the November 1st report still in the minds of the electorate. I suspect that come April, it will be a distant memory. With that in mind, it's likely in the best interest of the Cons, NDP, and BQ for a vote on November 7th or 14th. So I wouldn't be at all surprised if they look for a way to bring down the government at the first possible opportunity once the House resumes sitting.

UPDATE: Several Blogging Tories share this opinion: Political Staples and Colbert's Comments provide a view from the right.

2. Peter Newman's latest book on Brian Mulroney looks like it's going to be a real page turner, with Mulroney viciously laying into everyone from Trudeau, to Clyde Wells, to Kim Campbell. He also displays his usual modesty:

"By the time history is done looking at this," says Mr. Mulroney in a moment of self-praise, "and you look at my achievements as opposed to any others, certainly no one will be in Sir John A.'s league -- but my nose will be a little ahead of most in terms of achievements. Nobody has achievements like this, Peter. I can say that to you objectively. You cannot name a Canadian prime
minister who has done as many significant things as I did, because there are none."

If there's anyone out there other than Brian who actually believes this, I'd love to hear from them. He's also savage in his criticism of everyone who had anything to do with the death of Meech lake, blaming Trudeau primarily for it's collapse:

Mr. Trudeau's motivation, according to Mr. Mulroney, was that "He didn't want anybody to succeed where he had failed. Trudeau's contribution was not to build Canada but to destroy it, and I had to come in and save it. Three times I've achieved unanimity. In 16 years, he couldn't do it once, the 'great statesman.' "

It's not very difficult to get unanimity when you give away the store. At least Brian isn't alone in this one, because there are a lot of people out there (including our current Prime Minister) who, for whatever reason, still think Meech was a stroke of brilliance.

3. From Jane Taber, in Saturday's Globe:

Transport Minister Jean Lapierre and his wife, his chief of staff and her husband, his communications director and her sister, his deputy minister and at least two MPs and several other aides have just completed a week-long trip to China and Hong Kong. What a crew!

Indeed, China seems to be the destination of Canadian politicians these days, with Industry Minister David Emerson having recently visited there, Labour Minister Joe Fontana having left yesterday and Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty about to visit. (Is it the shopping or is there a by-election in Beijing?)

While on his trip, Mr. Lapierre led a trade mission, made speeches about intermodal transportation and attended dinners.

A senior source says that many in his group also shopped at the markets, where they bought custom-made suits and cheap golf clubs. Flying business class, some in the Lapierre group even enjoyed a refreshing glass of champagne.

"It's just a boondoggle," one senior source said

Given my respect and admiration for Jean Lapierre, I hate to criticize him, but it does seem odd that you'd need to take a lengthy trip to China with your entire staff to discuss transportation. Especially when CPC Transport critic James Moore turned down a government invitation to attend, feeling it wasn't worth his time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Vote Early, Vote Often

I'm just bringing the poll back to the top - you can vote once a day until Tuesday at noon. For background, you can read my "Case for King" or my "Trudeau vs Macdonald profile".

Greatest Prime Minister (Round 3)
Semi-Final Matchup 1
(1) Mackenzie King
(4) Wilfrid Laurier
Semi-Final Matchup 2
(2) John A. MacDonald
(3) Pierre Trudeau

(view results)

King of the World

While Trudeau and Macdonald are in a dogfight, the tournament's top seed seems certain of being bounced by Wilfrid Laurier. After consulting with my astrologer, I've decided to help King out and therefore present, "A Case for King" (even though, I myself would vote for Laurier).

A Case for King

Not only was he Canada's longest serving PM, but he is the longest serving PM in commonwealth history. Yeah, longevity doesn't equal greatness, but obviously Canadians at the time thought he was doing a good job when they kept re-electing him.

King was, without a doubt, the greatest politician in Canada's history. He made minced meat of Arthur Meighen during the King/Byng affair and deked left or right, depending on who he perceived to be the larger threat of ending his God given right to rule. He inherited a party decimated during WW1 but is one of the few PMs to see his successor win a majority.

He managed the country through World War 2 and was a valuable player in the allied war effort. He accomplished what Borden failed to do, by keeping the country united through a very divisive time, an event that has spawned the most often used essay question in freshman university history classes across Canada: "Compare and contrast the two conscription crises". He also deserves some credit for laying the groundwork for Canada's post war economic boom by recruiting a plethora of talented Canadians to his Cabinet and to the civil service.

But are there any legacy items? After X years, he must surely have accomplished something besides re-election, right? Here's a partial list:
-Relief programs during the depression and unemployment insurance
-CBC, the National Film Board, and Trans-Canada Airlines
-Old Age Pensions
-Child Allowances (probably the first major step towards the welfare state)

It may not be as earth shaking a resume as some of the other PMs have but King was Prime Minister after the country had been sewn together and before the era of big government. Quick Quiz: Name 5 accomplishments of Wilfrid Laurier. Or Robert Borden. Or RB Bennett. One wonders how bold Pierre Trudeau or Lester Pearson would have been as Canadian Prime Minister circa 1928...or 1942...or 1950...

King also advanced Canadian autonomy dramatically. Maybe not as much as Macdonald or Trudeau, but at least as much as Pearson or Borden. At the Balfour conference he argued for, and received, equal status of all the Commonwealth countries. In 1931 he signed the Statute of Westminster which made the Supreme Court of Canada the final court of appeal. This was likely a larger step towards Canadian independence than the Maple Leaf flag since it led to a concrete, rather than a symbolic, independence.

And I hate to go negative against a politician everyone admires, but Laurier's record is based on dignified leadership and sunny compromises (two things King delivered as well). Are there any real accomplishments to his name? Whenever he tackled a big issue like free trade or conscription, he lost. His success is based on saying one thing in Quebec and a different thing in Ontario. Plus, he was one of the most decentralizing PMs in Canada's history.

Yes, in his personal life King wasn't a model citizen. But John A was a drunk and PET was an arrogant prick. If his dead dog gave him good advice on running the country, then he shouldn't be penalized for it. He gave this country 22 years of Peace, Order and Good Government - that must be worth something.

When Nation Builders Collide

For the third consecutive round, Pierre Trudeau finds himself in the most hotly contested battle. This time, John A. MacDonald is his opponent. While I skipped the profiles last weekend due to a labour day getaway, I'm pleased to profile the Trudeau/MacDonald clash today. Remember, you can vote once each day until Tuesday at noon.

Trudeau vs Macdonald

Famous Lines
PET: "Reason over Passion", "The State has no place in the bedroom of the nation", "Fuddle-Duddle"
John A: "The public prefers John A. drunk to George Brown sober",

Reader Comments
PET: "Hey, Macdonald pursued policies harmful to the west too (tariffs and all). At least Trudeau has the Charter going for him." - BlueGrit.
John A: "I'm not sure about Macdonald vs. Trudeau. The thing is, if you remember Sir John A.'s true record, the corruption in his government, and the principles he had... But I'll probably still pick him anyway. Major impact and all that." - The Tiger

Quotes About
PET: "In Pierre Trudeau, Canada has at last produced a political leader worthy of assassination." -Irving Layton
John A: "Every succeeding prime minister has to be matched against John A. and only a few stand the comparison...Several of them have been better humans than Macdonald, none has been greater." -Gordon Donaldson

Crowning Glory
PET: Charter of Rights and Freedoms, winning the Referendum
John A: Birth of the nation, CPR

Infamous For...
John A: CPR scandal

PET: The War Measures Act
John A: The hanging of Louis Riel

Lost One Election...
PET: To Joe Clark?
John A: To Alexander Mackenzie?

Bastards and Boneheads Ranking
PET: Bastard Maximus Supremos: "He was never intimidated by anyone. He could have stared down Medusa herself. Shrill provincial premiers, rock-throwing hooligans, angry-voiced Albertans, rabble-rousing separatists: no one was able to shake him. Almost singlehandedly, he moulded the image of Canada into the type of nation he wanted it to become: bilingual, rational, just society based on the ideals of freedom and individual autonomy. In other words, a country just like him."
John A: A Bastard,Through and Through: "He took bribes. He drank too much. He wrapped himself in the British flag. And when all is said and done, he built this nation of ours. 'You'll never die John A!' the crowds yelled. 'You'll never die!'. And they were right."

Before and After
PET: Made dramatic changes to the criminal code as Justice Minister to modernize Canadian law. Killed Meech following his retirement.
John A: Helped orchestrate the coalition which brought Canada together.

For More Info
Cerberus has some good background here. And, of course, there's always Wikipedia: PET, John A.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Blocking the Bloc

There's an interesting proposal being put forward by the Young Liberals to limit party funding based on the percentage of ridings they run candidates in. This is obviously the least subtle attack ever on the Bloc Quebecois.

While I hate the Bloc with a fiery passion, the proposal seems extremely illogical and undemocratic. The Bloc is already penalized for running in only one province since they can only get $1.75 per vote from Quebec voters. Even the Liberals get a few grand from the kamikaze ridings in rural Alberta they run candidates in.

This is just a proposed Young Liberal policy and even their policies that are approved by the entire party (think pot and hookers) get ignored so there's no way this would ever see the light of day. But it still strikes me as a bizarre issue to be crusading on behalf of.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The Greatest PM contest is down to four - and it's hard to argue with the four that are left (though many have tried!). The rules are the same as before - you can vote once each day up until noon Mountain next Tuesday when the poll will be closed and the finalists will be announced. I'll try and put up some background material on the semi-finalists on Friday since I'm heading out of town this weekend.

Here are the matchups (with their previous two winning percentages in brackets):

(4) Laurier (74.6, 75.8)
(1) King (61.9, 89.5)
It's the mentor versus the pupil. They led the Liberal Party for the first half of the 20th Century and will now go head to head.

(3) Trudeau (50.8, 50.1)
(2) Macdonald (72.5, 92.0)
Macdonald has steamrolled through a pair of modern era Tories in the first two rounds while Trudeau has had to fight and claw for his two wins. This match-up will come down to how effective the right and left are at mobilizing the vote.

Greatest Prime Minister (Round 3)
Semi-Final Matchup 1
(1) Mackenzie King
(4) Wilfrid Laurier
Semi-Final Matchup 2
(2) John A. MacDonald
(3) Pierre Trudeau

(view results)

Meanwhile, in the USA...

I'm well over my CanCon levels for September, so I think I'll plow into US politics for a little bit...

1. George Bush is going to head an inquiry into finding he messed up dealing with Katrina! Gosh, with all the problems of the Gomery Pyle show, why didn't Martin just appoint himself to head the Adscam Inquiry? Or, if he was too busy, maybe he could have found a young law graduate to handle it.

2. 410 google news stories on Hillary Clinton criticizing Bush for his handling Hurricane Katrina. It sounds to me like somebody is running for President.

3. John Roberts is now in line to be Chief Justice. Talk about career advancement! I wish there were more companies that dished out juicy promotions before they'd even hired you. Say what you want about Roberts but this is still a nice slap in the face to the other neo-cons on that Court.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Final Four

While Trudeau was once again in a dogfight, he has advanced to the final four, along with the other top seeds. The results of the quarter-finals are:

(1) Mackenzie King (513) 61.88%
(9) John Diefenbaker (316) 38.12%

(2) John A. Macdonald (606) 72.49%
(7) Brian Mulroney (230) 27.51%

(3) Pierre Trudeau (430) 50.83%
(11) Lester B. Pearson (416) 49.17%

(4) Wilfrid Laurier (617) 74.61%
(5) Jean Chretien (210) 25.39%

This will set up what promises to be two very interesting semi-finals with Trudeau vs. Macdonald and King vs Laurier. I'll post the poll tomorrow.

Gas Wars

Interesting poll in the Star yesterday. Here's the lead:

MONTREAL: Almost half of Canadians wanted to see their petroleum resources and their gas companies nationalized as fuel prices hit record levels, a new poll suggests.

The Leger Marketing telephone survey of 1,500 people was conducted between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, the bulk being done before the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina were felt.

No doubt this will lead to even more saber rattling in Alberta and more talk of a new NEP.

My view? The higher gas prices go, the better. Prices in Canada are still far lower than Europe and the only way we'll ever get people to reduce their fuel consumption is by higher prices at the pump.

That said, energy use and gas prices have traditionally had a lot of impact at voters come election time, so there's definitely some room for any of the parties to make huge political gains with an appealing policy on this.

Friday, September 02, 2005

How To Help

I'm not sure if I'll be posting much this weekend but you can still vote once a day in round 2 of the Greatest PM Poll.

On a far more important note, Andrew at Bound by Gravity has compiled a list of ways you can help with Hurricane Katrina relief.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Happy Birthday

Alberta turns 100 today and things have never been brighter in Wild Rose Country. With a surplus of at least 3 billion this year and possible double that, the province is in a position to accomplish pretty much anything it wants. And, heck, the Flames nearly won a Cup last year and the Oilers landed Chris Pronger…times are good.

But you wouldn’t think things were this rosy if you listened to Albertans, from the politicians to the pundits. The latest complaint has been about the non-existant “NEP 2”. Even though there is no such program and no one in Ottawa has hinted that anything will be done to “rob” Alberta of its wealth, it provides a great straw man for people to take shots at.

This has predictably led to many bloggers posting their fond memories of the NEP. The Burkean Canuck gives a good analysis on the effects of the NEP here.

Here’s an excerpt from his post, written somewhat in response to my NEP post from early August.

The biggest lie of all is that central Canada helped Alberta during the dirty thirties. Ain't so. The Government of Alberta went hat in hand to central Canadian banks to restructure Alberta's debt, and they sought loan guarantees from the Government of Canada to take to the central Canadian banks. Both the central Canadian banks and the Canadian government turned Alberta down flat.

Things got so bad that by 1938, there was talk of merging Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba into one province, and the three Maritime provinces into another.

But the legend of central Canada's helping Alberta when the province was down and out is just that: a legend, a fiction that some occasionally find useful for their own purposes.

I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but I need to come back to it since one of the big defenses of the NEP (or equalization for that matter) is that Alberta had to pay a bit when times were good because the federal government was there, and will be there, for them when times are tough.

In the 30s, the Western Provinces had their loans guaranteed by the federal government to avoid bankruptcy. While digging for a reference to this in old University textbooks in my closet, I also came across this tid-bit in James Struthers' Canadian Unemployment Policy in the 1930s:

By 1937 Ottawa would be paying 85 percent of all relief costs in Saskatchewan; 71 percent in Alberta; 69 percent in British Columbia; and 68 percent in Manitoba; while still insisting that relief was a local responsibility. In Ontario and Quebec, in contrast, Ottawa paid only 29 percent and 32 percent, respectively, of relief costs.

There was also Diefenbaker’s National Oil Program that forced Ontario to buy Alberta oil, thereby helping the oilpatch grow, even if it meant higher prices for Canadian consumers. I also suspect a study on the amount of agricultural subsidies the federal government has dished out of the past century would find a staggering dollar total. And just recently, there was the billion dollar Mad Cow bailout.

Obviously Alberta puts a lot more into confederation than they get out, from a purely dollars and cents perspective. But this isn’t part of some grand conspiracy to rob Alberta of her wealth. This province hit the jackpot, not because Albertans work harder or because they elect Conservative governments, but because a lot of dinosaurs croaked here hundreds of millions of years ago. Like it or not, Canadians believe that the rich should help the poor, so that means Alberta is going to have to share some of the wealth.

I’m not advocating a new NEP, or an oil tax, or a change to the equalization formula – I’d just like to see an end to the over the tops screams that Ottawa is out to “rob” Alberta, when this is simply the nature of Confederation. Albertans should be grateful for the riches we’ve been blessed with and focus on using them to make this province even better.

And The Lord Said...

If you want an example of how out of touch from reality the far Christian right is in the United States, look no further than here. In a press release, "Repent America" claims that God sent the hurricane to New Orleans because, well...I'll let them explain it:

PHILADELPHIA - Just days before "Southern Decadence", an annual homosexual celebration attracting tens of thousands of people to the French Quarters section of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina destroys the city.

"Southern Decadence" has a history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars. Last year, a local pastor sent video footage of sex acts being performed in front of police to the mayor, city council, and the media. City officials simply ignored the footage and continued to welcome and praise the weeklong celebration as being an "exciting event". However, Hurricane Katrina has put an end to the annual celebration of sin.

Don't these guys have anything better to do? Aren't there cartoon characters to out?

UPDATE: Apparently, God is also mad at New Orleans for all the abortions going on there.

UPDATE 2: I asked for it, and one alert reader has sent in an instance of nutty left wing groups commenting on Katrina. While their statement is less bizarre in my opinion, the group is more credible. Follow the link and see how they're helping fight the biggest problem in New Orleans today - overturned pig trucks.