Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hidden agenda? Well, not so hidden...

Well, Stephen Harper is continuing in a rich right-wing tradition in Canada: the ritualistic shooting of oneself in the foot. He's done it a bit earlier than usual this year, though.

Yes, the leader of the opposition came out against gay marriage as one of his first campaign promises. Interestingly, he won't annul any marriage that's already taken place - I guess gays are only evil when the Conservatives are in power. I'm not sure how he justifies.

I've gotta say, one of two things has happened here: a) His advisors are idiots, or b) He's an idiot and not listening to them (again).

Maybe it's an attempt to get his hidden agenda out in the open so the Liberals can't accuse him of having one?

Maybe it's an effort to get it out early so he doesn't have to talk about it again? Stephen, baby, news for you: it won't work. You've got some VERY, uhm, "interesting" people running for the Conservative party. You can be sure they're going to bring it up, too. These people, let's face it, really hate gay people. They're not going to let this issue go unless you force them to, and you're not setting a very good example.

I can hear the cheers of a Liberal victory already...

Monday, November 28, 2005


When the same-sex marriage bill passed, Stephen Harper said that it was "illegitimate" because a majority of federalist MPs opposed it.

I wonder if he's going to say that tonight's vote is "illegitimate" because a majority of federalist MPs support the government?

Oh that's right, I forgot: it's only "illegitimate" if you disagree with it. Just like "activist" judges.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Placing the blame

A common Conservative retort to the "forcing a Christmas election" line has been that, "The Liberals forced us into a Christmas election in 1979." It's a good line, especially if you're of the mind that a Christmas election is inherently bad. (I don't think it is, and in fact, I'm personally getting tired of hearing Liberals complain about it - it makes us look like we're afraid of losing or something.)

But it's been bothering me. I just have to clear this up.
The facts:

The NDP and Social Credit brought down Clark in 1979. If Clark had gotten one or the other onside, he would have won that vote. The Liberals voting against the budget was taken for granted - the official opposition ALWAYS votes against the budget unless they have a REALLY good reason not to. It was up to the NDP and/or Social Credit to support the budget.


Joe Clark brought down Joe Clark in 1979. He thought he'd have enough MPs in the House to win the vote, for whatever reason - maybe he was figuring that the other parties would just let him have it? Well, that's not the way it worked out, and he lost. He didn't bother to deal with a third party, and he clearly wasn't prepared for an election. We'll probably never know why Clark had that massive error in judgment, but we got Trudeau Round II and a Charter out of it, so I'm not complaining. Much as I like Clark, I doubt he would have given us a Charter, but I must commend him for supporting Charter rights now.

My guess is that Clark and his advisors more than likely figured that the Liberals would just let the budget pass, even though they disagreed with it, by keeping about 10 Liberals out of the House, since Trudeau had already resigned as leader, and the Tories figured that the Liberals wouldn't want to have another election until they got a new leader. They were mostly right in that assmumption - the Liberals definitely did NOT want an election, as they had lost their Trudeau, and they knew they couldn't hold a leadership campaign without splitting the party during an election. In fact, 1980 would have been absolutely disastrous for them if they hadn't managed to convince Trudeau to return.

All in all, though, my point is that the 1980 election was completely unexpected on all sides, though in hindsight, it seems insane that no one knew it was coming.

And the key difference:

Clark lost on a budget vote. The Liberals are losing Monday on a non-confidence motion. The only times that has happened in Canadian history were 1963, when Pearson brought down Diefenbaker's government for gross incompetence, and in 1926, when King brought down Meighen by effectively saying that the government shouldn't even technically exist.

Losing a budget vote is one thing - it's mostly accidental and a matter of disagreement over an issue. Losing on a confidence motion is something else entirely - it is an explicitly worded expression of a lack of confidence in the government. Budget votes are necessary - confidence votes only happen if the opposition wants them to happen.

So, let's make no mistake about this. We're having a Christmas election. It's the opposition's prerogative. Let's just accept that and fight the election, so that the Liberals can win and we can get back to some semblance of stability.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Beaten to the punch...

I WAS going to make a post about how Dan McTeague wants rapper and "actor" 50 Cent banned from Canada. I was going to point out that, despite how loathesome 50's "music" is, that being a bad musician is no reason to ban someone from Canada, etc. etc. But honestly, absolutely nothing can top this:

"Dan McTeague wants 50 cent to be banned from Canada. Personally, I'd like to see Dan McTeague banned from Canada."

I don't think I can top that. So I'm not even going to try.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I just love these guys

A seemingly never-ending source of amusement is the ongoing fued between Scott Brison and Peter MacKay. It's wonderful. Every so often, one of them will make a comment that will rub the other the wrong way - in this case rodents were mentioned - and they'll trade a few personal barbs. It never lasts for very long, and they do it just often enough to remain relevant, but not so often that it gets annoying, thus keeping one of the most personal and bitter political rivalries alive for the entertainment of all of us who get our kicks watching our politicians go at it.

This particular instance jumped out at me even more because of a comment by MacKay that Brison was one of the "turncoat, twin towers of virtue on the prime minister's ad scam defence team." I may be reading this the wrong way, but would the other "turncoat twin" be his ex-girlfriend? Well, wouldn't it be funny to get Belinda in on that action too?

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's Laugh-Out-Loud Hypocritical!

Now, I'm not usually one to attack Stephen Harper, but I just couldn't let this one go. As you may be aware, Scott Brison was forced to apologize for the somewhat... hasty remarks he made about Stephen Harper's extra-curricular activities. (It's only fair, since Mr. Harper was once forced to apologize for remarks he made about Svend Robinson's.)

The thing that jumped out at me though was this fabulous line from the leader of the opposition:
"We accept his apology and hope that this makes all politicians more aware that false and baseless accusations have no place in the politics of Canada."
Now, when I read that, I very nearly did a spittake - no seriously, it doesn't just happen on TV! In case you missed it, let's repeat that in slow motion: "False. And. Baseless. Accusations. Have. No. Place. In. The. Politics. Of. Canada." Good job, Stephen. Good lord, next the man will be saying that people who engage in unregistered lobbying have no place in the politics of Canada. Oops. Do I have to apologize publicly?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

40 Hours of Forced Labour

Over at Running for Alberta, I could not help but notice a proposal to force students in Alberta to perform 40 hours of community involvement (or whatever polite euphemism is being used in place of the proper term for coerced, unpaid labour is being bandied about this time - "community involvement" was the Harris government's).

This is one of those issues that it is difficult to take a stance against, because it is bound up with so many emotional reactions - most immediately, the appeal to emotion (a logical fallacy) that anyone who opposes it must be hedonistic and uncaring (a rational absurdity). To oppose the "community service" (a bit closer to what it is - community service being a punishment and not a privilege), in the eyes of some, is to oppose patriotism, volunteering, helping the deeply misfortunate, and all sorts of other ideas that ordinary Canadians cherish.

Completely aware that I may be mocked and derided for holding this view, I nevertheless must stand against this idea as a matter of principle.

At its core, the idea is fundamentally anti-freedom, undemocratic and tyrannical. I know it may seem as if I am overreacting, but from a basic human rights point of view, it is difficult to see how it amounts to anything else besides slave labour - that is, coerced, unpaid labour. I have nothing against volunteering - one might say I encourage it - but coerced volunteering isn't really volunteering at all, is it? Using the power of the state to force people to do work that they do not necessarily want to do, and mandating that they are not allowed to profit from this work, is merely a few degrees in severity away from what we would condemn as Soviet.

The absurdity and logical contradiction of forcing people to volunteer aside, it simply does not encourage anything positive. It does not encourage further volunteer work, rather it ingrains in students a sense that volunteering is something that must be done in order to attain some concrete goal - in this case, a high school diploma - instead of a volitional act of self-betterment and compassion. It is viewed cynically by many students - certainly by myself - and is not seen as anything more than a hurdle. Volunteering should be more than a hurdle, and it should be, if I may repeat myself, voluntary.

Finally, what is considered proper community involvement is often quite bizarre. For example, any involvement done during school hours is not counted - no matter how much of a boy-scout it makes one seem. For instance, my school had a voluntary program known as "Students Helping Seniors". Students would miss a day of school - assuming responsibility for the missed work of course - and spend the day helping seniors do various tasks they could not otherwise do on their own. This very worthy task nevertheless would not be counted. Also not counted is any activity which could in any way profit the individual - instilling yet another irrational value, that self-benefit is evil and must be discouraged. And no one is allowed to perform any task which would otherwise be a paid position, even if they do not turn a profit themself. That being said, volunteering in an election campaign? Completely fine. In fact, I earned the total - and more - of my hours working on the campaign in the 2003 Ontario provincial election to unseat our local PC MPP - a very nasty fellow, frankly - with a Liberal challenger. How that is somehow more valuable than helping senior citizens is still a mystery to me.

Of course, I would have campaigned anyway, and that's exactly my point: anyone who is inclined to do any form of volunteer work does not need the government to force them to do it, and anyone who is not inclined to do any form of volunteer work should not have the government force them to do it. Instead of instilling the value that volunteering is good - as if school should be about instilling values in the first place - this policy treats volunteering as a burden, and anyone who does not want to volunteer anyway is going to do their mandatory 40 hours and never do it again, annoyed at having to do it in the first place, and unlikely to volunteer in the future. And so far as values go, how's this for a value: It's okay for the majority to force the minority to work without pay. That's not a value I support.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Government may fall on Tuesday

Good for Harper. If he wants to lead, he needs to start acting like a leader. Grow some balls, man!

Personally, I don't put much stock in this "Canadians don't want an election" business. In fact, I don't really put much stock in what "the majority" wants period, never have. Majority or no, if there's an election, you get out and you vote, that's your civic duty - it's not like it's a huge burden, once every few years you gotta go mark a box. And as for a Christmas election, I'm sorry fellow Liberals but I'm going to have to turn on you on this one - you're wrong to say that there will be a Christmas election if the government falls on Tuesday. Unless Paul Martin is monumentally stupid, there won't be. It is the government which schedules elections - the 36-day campaign is only the minimum required. Traditionally, campaigns have lasted much longer than that. So guys and gals, let it go. It's not going to happen.

The fact is, Harper and Layton both have a responsibility to do this. Duceppe has been the only consistent leader among them - he has maintained all along that the Liberals do not have the moral authority to govern, and he has been expressing that in his votes for the past several months.

Layton withheld his judgment, and when Gomery issued his report, he came to the decision that the Liberals do not have the moral authority to govern. (Ignoring that Gomery basically exonnerates them, but whatever, that's politics.) And yet, he's been wishy-washy on expressing this in a vote - that fake confidence motion? What the hell is that?

And Harper, well, Harper I just wanted to slap when he said he wasn't going to bring down the government. You CANNOT say on the one hand that the government does not have the moral authority to govern, but on the other hand ALLOW them to continue governing!

This is the way Canadian democracy works: The government is assumed at all times to have the authority to govern, as it is acting on the authority of the monarch with the consent of the House of Commons. In order to say that a government no longer has the authority to govern, the House of Commons must pass a motion of no-confidence or reject a motion of confidence. Failing one of these two things, the government has the authority to govern, and nothing any opposition leader says will change that fact. Period.

So, if Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton truly believe the government has lost the confidence of the House, they have a duty to express this in a vote. But simply saying for the next couple of months that the government has lost the confidence of the House, when the House has clearly not expressed such a thing, is a mockery of Canadian democracy.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Question Time, Part II

It's really quite different watching the British Question Time, their equivalent to Question Period.

The difference is striking in several ways. The first is that the MPs are much better behaved - they rarely ever need to be quieted by the Speaker, though there is still murmuring and dissenting shouts. Also, ministers don't answer questions, but that is something I prefer about our system, actually.

Also, I was totally blown away when a Labour MP stood up and said that he agreed with the prime minister's 90-day legislation (see below), but that he could not support the prime minister's education bill.

Woah! I couldn't believe it! Living in a country where MPs are forced, no matter what party, to toe the line or expect consequences. Now, I challenge anyone to tell me: why is that the United Kingdom can have the exact same parliamentary system as we do, but that their MPs are allowed much more freedom?

If Stephen Harper is serious about democratic reform, he will promise to get rid of such foolish rules as, for example, making it mandatory for the party leader to sign the nomination papers of a candidate. That practice has made rebellions of MPs against their leaders next to impossible in Canada, and that's just not the way a democracy should work.

Go Michael Howard

I'm watching Prime Minister's Question Time right now, watching British Conservative leader Michael Howard brilliantly articulate opposition to Tony Blair's failed attempt to allow law enforcement to lock up terrorist suspects for ninety days without charges.

It's so great to see a country where the conservatives actually still stand up for civil liberties. It seems to be a dying trend in North American conservatism, where the conservatives are more concerned with making people afraid of terrorism than with protecting the rights the terrorists want to destroy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, Belinda!

In an apparent attempt to change her image (which can currently be summed up by the word "android") our lovely Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach, who also apparently doubles as the Minister for Democratic Renewal - a cabinet position which is a sick joke Martin is playing on anyone who actually cares about such things - made an off-the-cuff and, well, downright risque comment to 22-Minutes comedian Cathy Jones.

My jaw certainly dropped. Not just because she said something kind of dirty, but more because she said something unscripted and funny. Good for her. That's EXACTLY what she needs. Seriously.

The End of Gay Culture

Blogger and journalist Andrew Sullivan is one of my favourite political writers currently - if not my favourite - and while his writing on politics is illuminating and interesting, not to mention principled and non-partisan, he's really at his most poignant when writing about homosexuality, not just as a political issue, but as a much more broad topic encompassing history, sociology and family and community life. His recent essay, "The End of Gay Culture", is an incredible piece of work, and I highly recommend it to everyone, from gays seeking to gain an understanding of the past they could have lived - or did live - through, to straights seeking to understand just why it is that something they have taken for granted - marriage and social acceptance - could be so important for gay people.

Here's an exerpt:

"Gay culture was once primarily about pain and tragedy, because that is what heterosexuals imposed on gay people, and that was, in part, what gay people experienced. Gay culture was once primarily about sex, because that was how heterosexuals defined gay lives. But gay life, like straight life, is now and always has been about happiness as well as pain; it is about triumph as well as tragedy; it is about love and family as well as sex. It took generations to find the self-worth to move toward achieving this reality in all its forms--and an epidemiological catastrophe to accelerate it. If the end of gay culture means that we have a new complexity to grapple with and a new, less cramped humanity to embrace, then regret seems almost a rebuke to those countless generations who could only dream of the liberty so many now enjoy."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One step closer to an election

Jack Layton has sent an unequivocal message to Stephen Harper: the NDP will support a confidence motion to bring down the government. Well, unless Harper gets cold feet, it looks like the House shuts down on the 15th.

Has anyone else noticed that the Greens always do better in Strategic Counsel polls than in others? Just a thought.

So Mr. Gregg has released his latest poll. And all I can do is laugh. How ridiculous is this? The people of this country just seem to love playing sick head-games with Conservatives - giving them a ray of hope, and then taking it away from them every so often, just for the fun of it. The interesting thing is the NDP's drop. They're lower than they were in the last election, which I guess just goes to show that, when push comes to shove, those soft-lefties will abandon the NDP and vote Liberal the second it looks like the Conservatives are going to win.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Is it me...

Or did Stephen Harper just say he's not going to bring down the government?



We're going to the polls

Bring it on!

Layton rejects health care plan

While he hasn't said "I'm going to bring down the government", he has rejected the deal.

Oh boy...

Minorities - History Lesson

Well, Democratic Space's Election Prediction pretty much agrees with my estimation of the seat count, only they're a bit less generous to the Liberals than I am.

Of course, the exact number of seats is pretty irrelevant, what matters is how the math works out. And the results would be pretty much the same - the Conservatives could form a minority, but only with the help of either the Liberals or the Bloc. What an odd situation that would be...

Conservative minority governments have typically not worked out well in Canadian history, because they don't really have any natural partners. The Liberals can go left for a while to get the NDP on side, but the Conservatives? Not really feasible. It's for that reason that the minority governments of Conservative prime ministers Arthur Meighen (1926), John Diefenbaker (1957-8, 1962-3), and Joe Clark (1979) all fell much faster than the Liberal minorities of Mackenzie King (1921-5, 1925-6, 1926-30), Lester Pearson (1963-5, 1965-8), Pierre Trudeau (1972-4) have tended to last for a lot longer. In each of those cases, the Liberals were willing to work with a third party (Progressives for King, NDP for Pearson and Trudeau) in order to stay in power. The Conservatives never had allies like that, except for Meighen, who could have easily appealed to the conservative-minded Progressives, but was too... well... proud and foolish to do so.

I've observed in the past (maybe not on this blog) the striking similarities between Arthur Meighen and Stephen Harper. Ideologically conservative, background in numeric theory (Harper economics, Meighen mathematics), cold and uncharismatic, sharply intelligent though not really a master of politics, and up against an opponent who is a bit wishy-washy on issues - which infuriated Meighen to no end and probably bugs Harper too - who is at least more charismatic and likable than them, and not as intelligent but certainly a better player of the political game. Given their similarities, it's interesting to speculate how Harper would act during a minority government, and my guess is, given the lessons of history, it wouldn't last long.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Let's Do This Thing

So, my Liberal brethren and sistren, I've been thinking... the next election does stand a chance of producing a Tory victory. While this is frightening out of context, when put in the larger context of things, it doesn't seem so painful.

First off, if they do win, it will only be a minority - there is no way they can get a majority without Quebec, especially considering that the NDP is likely to sweep up a bunch of their seats in BC, off-setting any gains they make in Ontario. Indeed, if an election victory happens for the Tories, it will most likely be because the Liberals LOST seats to the Bloc in Quebec and the NDP in BC, and to the Tories in Ontario, not because the Tories made any substantial gains. So while the make-up of the House of Commons would give the Tories the most seats, they would most likely still only have about 100-115, with the Bloc at about 60, Liberals at about 100, and the NDP at Ed Broadbent-levels, around 45. So if we're worried about the Tories doing anything particularly damaging, well, there's no real need to worry, since they wouldn't be able to govern without the support of either the Liberals or the Bloc, and you know which one they WOULDN'T choose.

Second, it's not like they can do any damage even if they have a substantial minority victory, anyway. Any attempts to pass any particularly nasty legislation - I'm thinking in particular a reversal of the Civil Marriage Act - would be killed in committee by the opposition majority.

Third, the Liberals would most likely turn on Paul Martin. Well... boo-hoo. He hasn't even approached living up to what I was expecting of him, so I wouldn't miss him. He was a good finance minister, but he's been a lacklustre prime minister. I know the excuse can be made, "Well, he's got a minority, so there's not a lot he can do." Well, I've gotta call bullshit on that one. There's plenty he could do, he just doesn't WANT to. For example, if he wanted to do some work on Senate Reform (like he promised), the Tories would be onside. If he wanted to do some work on Electoral Reform, the NDP, the Bloc and possibly the Tories would all be onside. If he wanted to liberalize laws on any of the major social issues, he'd have both the NDP and the Bloc onside. Those are the areas that I care about, and frankly, if he's not willing to do it, then I have no problem dumping him. I'd much rather have Michael Ignatieff or Scott Brison take a run at the leadership than have Martin there for the next 8 years doing nothing.

Which leads right into my next point. Fourth, I'm a Liberal supporter because - and only because - I care more about social issues than about other issues. I'm willing to put up with the more leftist elements of the party only because we share common goals with regards to gay rights, marijuana liberalization, prostitution, abortion and capital punishment. I disagree with them wholeheartidly when it comes to healthcare, the war in Iraq, and taxes. Now, since there's clealy been very little progress on the social front (they could decriminalize pot today if they felt like it, even in a de facto way by instructing crown attoneys not to prosecute it or granting pardons to convicted pot smokers, for example), and the only reason they did the gay marriage thing was because they were forced to, I kind of want to see the Liberals out of power for a while. I want them to develop a new platform under some younger and/or more daring leadership, a platform that isn't afraid of and is unapologetic about its promises to implement some of these Liberal youth wing proposals. It would also serve to root out the social conservatives in the Liberal Party like Dan McTeague and Tom Wappell, since the only reason they're there is because the Liberals are currently in power. Basically, the Liberals could redefine themselves, unhindered by concerns of not pissing people off.

Speaking of pissing people off, fifth, I'm tired of the sponsorship issue. If the Liberals take an electoral defeat over it, well, at least it'll be over. They can lick their wounds, dump the old guard, and present a fresh, scandal-free face to Canadians for judgment. Guilty or not, anyone who was in the Liberal cabinet from 1995-2002 is permanently tarnished by this, including Paul Martin. Is it fair? No. Did the vast majority of them have no part in it? Absolutely. But that's just politics.

So, anyway, what I'm getting at is, the only way that I will worry about the results of the next election is in the extremely unlikely event of a Tory majority. But unless that happens, I'm pretty much indifferent to what happens. So let's bring it on. Government can be defeated on the 15th. I say go for it.

The Gregg Poll

Well, I'm sure you've all seen this already.

The numbers seem to favour the Conservatives only marginally, however, the poll numbers excluding Quebec tell a different story.

In order to have an accurate idea of what's going on, it's important to exclude Quebec from the equation - it's going to be Bloc territory in the next election, anyway. Any support the Liberals have in Quebec which boosts their national popular vote is pretty much moot. What really matters for them is being ahead in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and at least respectable in the west, particularly BC.

Well, in Ontario, they're neck-and-neck, a painful scenario which would deliver a good chunk of seats to the Tories. As for the BC, they're no longer leading there.

That's definitely a recipe for a Liberal loss, if not a Tory gain.

So I guess my point is, this poll is even worse than it looks for the Liberals.