Archive for ‘National politics’

September 29, 2015

Trusting Stephen Harper with the economy

Somehow this myth has developed about the Conservative Party of Canada(CPC) being a good manager of the economy.

Now I’m not an economist but I can read. And I can remember things, occasionally.

This is what I remember…

In 2008 Harper denied there was a recession or an economic crisis. Then when it finally dawned on him that we were in trouble he didn’t have any clue about what to do except ‘stay the course’. It was only because he was in a minority position that he was forced to adopt measures pressed on him by the NDP and Liberals…fiscal stimulus and a willingness to accept a budget deficit.

The latter was not too hard for Harper since, having inherited a nice surplus from the Liberals under Paul Martin, he has not managed to balance a budget until this year … maybe. That was even before the meltdown.

Then, after adopting the opposition’s economic policies he proceeded to rebrand them as his own Economic Action Plan.

In the first couple of years Canada did indeed do better than most OECD countries. Many have attributed this to the tough regulatory regime  governing the banking system in Canada that was put in place by the Liberals…the type of regulations Stephen Harper would oppose.

In the past several years, in spite of Harper’s lies to the contrary, Canada has lagged behind the OECD mean for job growth and  general economic growth.

What has Harper done to reverse the slide in the economy? He has defined an economic strategy based on pandering to his base. Even conservative economists have said that income splitting and raising the Tax Free Savings Account limits will do nothing for economic growth and disproportionately favours the well to do. For a ‘conservative’ he has made the tax system much more complicated by targeted his supporters with tax cuts in piecemeal measures from hockey equipment to child tax credits. Most economists of all ideologies have decried his do-nothing approach to the economy…or rather his crass reduction of the tax base for political benefit.

And what is Harper saying today? Well, first he denies that we are in recession in spite of his own legislation defining a recession as ‘two successive quarters of negative economic growth’, which indeed what has just occurred.

What is Harpers plan for the future? He is saying we need to ‘stay the course’. That would, of course, be the course of denying there is a problem and refusing to do anything about it. He continues to repeat the mantra that Canada is doing better than the rest of the developed world in spite of much evidence to the contrary.

So why do so many Canadians feel Harper is a trusted manager of the economy? I don’t know. But if you know any of these people, please, ask them why they think so. I would really like to know where this comes from.

Now don’t get me started on the ethical issues of a Harper government. Talk about a sense of entitlement.

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May 24, 2014

Tacking to the centre or losing our way?

I have written twice now about the Ontario election. Today there is a public letter out from a number of NDP stalwarts bemoaning the move to the centre of the Ontario NDP. It reminds me very much of all the years I put into the NDP when I was younger.

Perhaps I am becoming more conservative with time. That’s always a possibility, as scary a concept as it seems to me. But I wonder about the value of ideological purity in the absence of access to power. The NDP has always struggled to reconcile the contradictions between seeing itself as a movement or a political party seeking to attain power.

Many in the party, and I suspect that includes most of those who signed the letter and many labour leaders, enjoy the self satisfaction of the concept of purity. They enjoy the self righteousness that the Left likes to feel about itself and are seriously disturbed when they have to relinquish some of that in order to persuade others to come along for the ride. The object of a political party (and, I would think, of any political movement) is to convince others that they have the correct approach that will eventually lead to solutions of problems and a better life outcome. This often means compromise and dialogue. That is hard for many people. And the Left finds it very hard.

I don’t object to some tracking to the centre. New Labour in Britain may never have attained power without a move to the centre. One may reasonably ask then what is the purpose of attaining power if only to be the same as everyone else? That’s a fair question and one that can reasonably be asked of Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP. Considering they don’t have a response to the Liberals’ pension plan, they are week on public transit (particularly how to pay for it) and took forever to respond to the Liberals’ raising of the minimum wage, why then vote for them?

And that’s the question I would ask today.

It’s not the ‘tacking to the centre’ that the NDP have undertaken that I object to. It’s the complete absence of vision that concerns me. The NDP have borrowed from the federal Conservatives the concept of ‘retail politics’. They are offering individual tidbits to parts of the electorate in an attempt to buy their votes. The is not social democratic territory in any realm.

As I said in a previous article, the Right has gone a long way to convince the public that there is no good role for government, smaller is better. The Ontario Liberals with their transit, but particularly the pension plan, are saying that there IS a role for government. And to me that is a huge statement and a huge ideological platform that I strongly support.

One last thing. I chuckled when I read that some traditional NDPers object to Horwath saying she would try to stop waste in government. Of course the phrase ‘cutting government waste’ is often code for cutting services. But I think Tommy Douglas would be turning in his grave if he thought that the NDP would not be fiscally prudent and hard on mismanagement and waste. Any prairie socialist understood that taxpayer money was a trust. Too bad today’s socialists seem to have such little regard for thrift.

May 17, 2014

Election Ontario

I’ve been wrestling with how to vote for a while now. Ever since St Jack screwed Canada so royally.

We had a negotiated national child care program, a Kelowna Accord. We lost both of those so Layton and the NDP could stroke their egos by denouncing their true enemy. No, no the Conservatives, but the Liberals.

I’ve been involved in politics for a lot of years. I began formally working for the NDP as a teen. I learned early on that the real enemy was those fickle Liberals. As Smokey Thomas pronounced at the start of this election campaign ‘at least we know what the Conservatives stand for’.

Well, yes we do. They stand for a lot of regressive and nasty things. Just the way Stephen Harper is no Brian Mulroney or Joe Clark, Hudak is no Bill Davis.

Now I have to admit, when I was younger I thought all Conservatives were the same. And, to be sure, I still don’t like them in most any guise. But Harper and Hudak aren’t your patents’ Progressive Conservatives. They are a new breed, a spin off of the American Republican right. Yes, we’ve seen these kind of people before in Canada. But until recently there has always been a tempering dose of Red Tory-ism in the party. Not this iteration.

So when the NDP hands the reigns of power to the likes of Stephen Harper because of some crass internal political calculation we have to take notice.

And if Andrea Horvath, in her new role as a small ‘c’ conservative populist, hands the election to Hudak’s Conservatives, then the NDP will have cemented their role as obstructionists to the progressive agenda.

I like my local NDP MPP. But when the ballots are counted and we are presumably left with a minority government (oh my god, not a Conservative majority) I want the Liberals to have one more seat than the Conservatives. Even if that means one fewer NDP sear. I want the Lieutenant Governor to ask the Liberals to form a government, not the Conservatives.

Under Wynn the Liberals are campaigning to the left of the NDP. I know, the NDP rhetoric is that you cannot trust the Liberals to carry out their program. They have a history of running from the left and ruling to the right. I am not naive. But what I like about the Liberal campaign is their pension plan policy and their transit policy. Unlike the NDP’s policy of handing nibbles to the ‘middle class’ the Liberals are not afraid to offer vision and a bold role for the public sector. I feel the Liberals are saying ‘government is back’. I think in these times of less taxes and smaller government that’s a hugely important message.

That’s why, for the first time in my life, I’m going to vote Liberal. I want to break away from the strangle hold I feel the NDP has had on my vote and give it to a progressive party. This time around that appears to be the Liberal Party.

May 24, 2013

Mike Duffy Exposed!!

It’s been bothering me for a while. I knew I’d seen Mike Duffy’s kind before. And finally I’ve got it!

Mike Duffy is Sontaran!!

*check out Dr Who to see what I mean*

November 25, 2012

Calgary Centre By-election: Nov 26

Well it looks like the left is about to do it again. I’m talking about handing the trophy to the Right without a fight.

The biggest disservice to Canada by a political party in recent memory has to have been the NDP handing the reigns of government to Stephen Harper in the first place. Until then he was a scary figure to most Canadians. He was unlikely to have won an election for Prime Minister outright.

By defeating the Liberals and handing power to the Conservatives, Jack Layton broke the cardinal rule. He handed power to the enemy thereby giving them the tools of government and all the perks one has to influence the outcome of future elections. What the NDP did was allow Stephen Harper to look Prime Ministerial and not so scary. They allowed him to position himself for the subsequent drive for a majority.

Of course, the NDP has always considered the Liberals the enemy and not the Conservatives in their naive drive to move Canada toward a two party system where they feel they would have a better opportunity to achieve power (a la Britain). In doing so they handed the reigns of power over to a brilliant tactician.

Tomorrow is a bi-election in Calgary Centre. The Conservative candidate is polling at 37% with the liberals in second place at 32%. The Greens are at 17% and the NDP at 12%. The riding has been Conservative since it’s inception in 2004 and prior to that the same area has been Conservative since dinosaurs roamed Alberta (which, in fact, they still do).

In the last election the Conservatives got 56% of the vote with the NDP in second spot at 16%. So the bi-election polls are showing a major realignment of voters’ sympathies. And as we know from Stephen Harper’s election, it’s easier to fight from an incumbent’s position than a challenger. What a sea change this would be for the political landscape.

The polls show that no one but the Liberals have a chance to knock off the Conservatives. Everyone else is way back. Nathan Cullen, when he ran for the NDP leadership spoke of cooperation among the progressive parties to unseat the Conservative. Elizabeth May expressed  similar thoughts.

Why then has it come to this? There is a chance to take a seat in the centre of the Conservative holy land. There is a chance her for a model of cooperation to unseat Stephen Harper in the next federal election. No one is asking the opposition parties to stand aside and not contest every close riding. But there are ridings where only one opposition party is close enough to unseat a Conservative and where the difference in polling suggests it would be an easy take. Calgary Centre is one such riding at a crucial time.

To think that the parties of progress might not be able to do the right thing is unbelievable. What we are witnessing is the handing of political power to Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada for the next federal election. If this is the future of politics in Canada then it will result in a real and significant cultural change as the Conservatives continue to stamp their misdirected interpretation of our history on this county.

February 15, 2012

Laissez-faire control freaks, ie: Conservatives

Wow, what a bunch of control freaks.

Stephen Harper comes from the National Citizens’ Coalition and Reform Party barn of no role for government. He doesn’t believe in government as a civilizing role in mediating human affairs. Witness the drop in taxes (in order to make social services unaffordable) and his mismanagement of the economy — ie: the lack of management of the impending economic crisis until the opposition forced him to act.

Of course he has now turned his inaction cum mild stimulus of a rudderless ship into the ‘Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan’. But I digress.

This group of MPs whose baser instincts led to the canning of the long form census as too intrusive into citizens’ (who have now, of course be renamed taxpayers) private lives, have backed the most controlling attack on our justice system with mandatory minimal sentencing (opposed by the legal profession and judges alike) and what will be the greatest expansion of imprisoned Canadians in this country’s history.

But this week brought a further assault on our freedoms and our private lives with Vic Toew’s  (the worrisomely 1984 named Minister of Public Safety) new legislation to allow the police to spy on our internet use without a search warrant. It’s not too hard to see what use the police could put these powers to in the event of a Canadian Spring. Let me just add here that child pornography is indeed abhorrent and no one I know condones it.

Conservatives always see sex and pornography under every rug. They are completely obsessed with pornography and crime (as they define it). Yet daycare for vulnerable children or child poverty doesn’t seem to register on their outrage-meter.

I would suggest that what some of these Ministers need to get laid but, if evidence about sexual activity from right wing American politicians applies in this country, they are likely getting sex. They are just feeling profoundly guilty about it and want to make sure that no one actually enjoys it.

 

 

February 5, 2012

Why can’t reporters understand Stephen Harper?

The following is a Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail yesterday that didn’t get published:

Reporter Joe Friesen has perpetuated the misunderstanding of our Prime Minister in his ‘Stephen Harper’s census’ (Feb 4, 2012). He says that Harper, while playing the demographic card to insist that we cannot afford the current old age security benefits, nevertheless refuses to understand British Columbia’s demographic arguments in favour of a more generous federal contribution to Medicare payments for its older population.

Mr Friesen apparently just doesn’t understand Harper at all. Harper isn’t employing or ignoring the facts of demographics at all. Harper has an agenda of less government and fewer social programs. He has a vision of a Canada unlike what we’ve experienced for generations. His announced intention is to remake Canada in his conservative image.
No amount of facts or ‘evidence’ is driving Harper’s decision making. When the facts are in his favour, he gladly employs them. When not, he ignores them. This is a case of ideology trumping common sense. One thing this is not, contrary to the article, is ‘puzzling’.
This type of misunderstanding of Harper is rampant in the Report on Business and elsewhere in the newspaper world.
Reporters cannot understand why StatsCan would be gutted when it provides necessary information about demographics and such that are crucial to government planning. They couldn’t understand why the Prime Minister, an ‘economist’, would lower the GST (which ended up being partly responsible for our current fiscal deficit, but, also very handily the very excuse to cut government services). Neither made sense and they found it ‘puzzling’ that an intelligent man like Harper would be so evidently ignorant of such things.
Harper’s crime agenda is much more obviously crafted. He is increasing jails and making the justice system more rigid and punitive at a time when crime stats have never been lower (now there’s a good reason to get rid of StatsCan). This is simply and obviously playing to his base. Interesting, though, how conservatives who do not believe in a role for government always end up with enormous bureaucracies to administer ‘justice’ to those who fall out of line.
Most reporters understand the crass nature of Harper’s justice policies. Somehow, though, they are blinded by his economic policies. The fact is, Harper either doesn’t understand economics at all or is simply too ideologically driven to care. I believe it is an unhealthy combination of the two.
Why don’t journalists get this?
May 11, 2011

Difficult budget choices for the Right Wing at TO council

So the police budget is up for discussion (or not) in good old TO. The budget chief, Mike del Grande, himself a Right Winger,  is objecting to the $29million spent on hiring off duty cops for a number of tasks that don’t require trained policemen (traffic duty around construction sites, etc).

Now $29,000,000 seems like a lot of money to me. However Doug Ford (half of the Siamese twin pair of RobDoug) is complaining that it is only a small fraction of the budget and not worth worrying over. In fact he complained when the budget committee spent ‘an hour’ discussing this topic saying that was too much time for such trivial matters when there was money to be found elsewhere.

I don’t know about you, but $29million is more than I earn in an hour. I think that’s time well spent.

You know, I find it very interesting that Right Wingers like RobDoug claim to be interested in stopping the gravy train and decreasing the size of government. Yet when it comes to law enforcement, despite all the evidence that crime is down, they continue to insist on spending more.

Just like the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa. They complain about budgetary constraints. They cannot find money to fix infrastructure (even though it would increase employment as well as productivity) but they have billions to spend on prisons and the military.

If the Right had their way, government would wither away except for a massive police and prison system. Which is a good thing since after they got through destroying all the civilizing edifices of a modern civic society we would need all that law enforcement.

Is it any wonder that police forces use their authority with such relish in circumstances like the G20 fiasco. They know where their bread is buttered.

May 10, 2011

Why Steven Harper is going to remain Prime Minister for a long while.

Well it’s been a week and I am slowly coming out of my stunned state.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about the results.

The Liberals would be fools to rush into a leadership campaign. They need to sit down and think about what, if any, is the purpose of their party. Do they have any big ideas about the direction of the country. Do they have anything to offer Canadians beyond individual tax breaks and some vague notion of an Educational Passport?
Personally, I do not see the imminent demise of the Liberal Party. That’s partly because I also don’t see the Orange Revolution as anything of the sort.

The NDP were the recipients of some immediate discontent in Quebec. They will struggle with fulfilling Quebec’s nationalist tendencies while trying to hold onto their centralist instincts. Quebeckers are good at moving around their allegiances to garner advantage where they see it. I don’t think the NDP seats in Quebec are a longterm change but a one-time event.

If that is true, then given their very modest improvement in popularity (only at the expense of the Liberals) in the rest of Canada, then I don’t see Canada becoming, like Britain post war (at least until this past election) a two party system of Conservatives and NDP.
I think if the Liberals can manage to retool then they will eventually get back in the game at the expense of the NDP.

And while I was, and am, excited about a large NDP opposition, let us not forget that it was the NDP that brought us the demise of the Kelowna Accord and a national day care program by oppourtunistically bringing down the Paul Martin minority government, thereby setting the framework for the subsequent Harper victory.

I understand that the NDP has its own goals but their complete ignoring of the Conservative majority to toot their own horn is appalling to me.

What I find worrisome, of course, is the Conservatives. Harper has proven himself resilient and smart in his relentless pursuit of power. He is profoundly conservative. But he understands that, aside from his base, the rest of Canada (about 65% to 70% of us) is not.

His goals are longterm. He will not immediately enact some hidden agenda. I think those who accuse him of this do not understand the nature of the Harper plan. He knows that he must slowly drag Canadians along the path to less government and a more conservative (ie: individualistic) ideology.

He has so far successfully framed social services in terms of individuals rather than government. Where the NDP and Liberals have, in the past, supported a national daycare program, Harper has given tax incentives to families to find their own daycare arrangements. And the NDP and Liberals have, by and large, accepted this new re-framing of policy and gone along with their own incentives.

Where the Kelowna accord was a government to ‘government’ relationship, Harper prefers individual business enterprise to aid Aboriginal populations.
Where once the Liberals had a national education policy and approach, we now have an Educational Passport, based on a individual’s journey through life.
Instead of systemic antipoverty policies we have the Family Pack.

Harper has given government programs and policy a bad name and the opposition has accepted the rhetoric and are now battling the Conservatives on their own turf. That’s not a winning game plan. The rule maker is the favoured player on this battleground.
Harper does not have to bring in a conservative revolution. He just has to change some of the rules of the game and force others to play by them.

He will change party finance rules and help to castrate the opposition.
He will commit to buying fighter jets and thereby hamstring government finances in the process.
He will change the justice system to incarcerate ever increasing numbers of Canadians. In doing so he will further hamstring finances by a huge increase in jail costs. He has already convinced Canadians that criminals are a serious threat to our wellbeing.
The opposition will be seen as soft on crime if they oppose (as we saw in the election—what we also saw was the NDP themselves trying to get into the ‘tough on crime’ ballgame).

If the NDP and Liberals follow the paths they have started to go down by accepting Harper’s rhetoric and trying simply to play to the left of him in the same game, then Harper will have succeeded in changing Canada and will have succeeded in placing the Conservative Party at the centre of government for quite a while.

Politicians like Harper and Rob Ford in Toronto are small thinkers in the truest sense of the word. They are anti government and so see it as lessening and getting smaller. Now that may seem strange because Harper has brought in the largest budget and has the largest government in Canadian history. But that is only because he has crassly sought to buy votes. Of course with his tax cuts he will lead us all into deficit as well. In his world vision, government is small except for enormous budgets for the criminal justice system and defense, the latter because these new conservatives are fear mongers and see only the worst in people.

What the opposition needs to do is get back to a vision, a grand scheme, a purpose. I think what Canadians are looking for is a game plan, something to grab onto for a better life. What the Left has failed to do is connect to Canadian’s concerns and needs. It really isn’t getting us anywhere to decry Harpers malicious personality or the stupidity of those voting for him (many of the same people we hope to attract). Instead of putting down those who vote Conservative, let’s try to relate to what Canadians are really looking for.

I remember when Mike Harris campaigned on stopping all those welfare bums from taking advantage of the welfare system…his ‘work for welfare’ plan. It was the same type of gravy train argument (tangentially) that Rob Ford ran on. I also remember the NDP, Bob Rae as leader, saying that ‘no one would be on welfare if they didn’t have to be’. Well, the Left may deny welfare abuse but most regular Canadians know it exists. That doesn’t excuse the Right for going after poor people en masse but when everyone knows something to be true the Left cannot deny it. The reason the Left jumps to those statements is because, in their honest desire to defend the current social service system against attacks from the Right, they inappropriately defend it exactly as it is. Instead, they should offer some kind of reform to make it more efficient, or better yet, to help people get off it…but in a progressive way.

This outright denial of what everyone knows to be reality only does a disservice. There are defenses of of the social welfare system that acknowledges that some people take advantage of it.

This is just one small example. But when I heard the NDP’s reply to the outrageous Mike Harris/Conservative attacks of the system, I knew we were in trouble. They posited nothing new or innovative, simply a defense of the current state of the world. That is not good enough. The Left has to come up with some new and positive ideas and not simply resort to a reactionary defense of an unchanging system. The Conservatives have turned the tables on us and we are not up to the task of responding.

Until someone articulates a progressive vision based on reality and that speaks to people’s desires and goals Canadians will continue to vote for the party promising more take home income and stability.

May 2, 2011

Election diaries: postmortem

Well, ok, not really a postmortem. It’s an intramortem. It’s 10:13pm in Toronto and I’m watching Newsworld. The news is scary.

I really do believe this isn’t just a Conservative victory. I think this Conservative win to be a game changer. For all the reasons already described, Stephen Harper is an anti-democrat. I’m not so worried about a hidden agenda. His upfront agenda is frightening enough.

Two things that are driving me crazy tonight.

First, I remember why I was so pissed off at the NDP a couple of years ago. They brought down Paul Martin’s government and trashed a national daycare program, the Kelowna accords and other stuff. But what was most damaging is that they gave Harper a chance to look Prime Minsterial— always a dangerous event.

And tonight what do all the NDP spokespeople on Newsworld have to say? They are excited about their gains. They chortle over being the Opposition. But I have yet to see one of them decry the Conservative victory.

I know the NDP is a political party like the others. And of course they care most about their own fortunes. I understand this. But no regrets at all about the fact that almost all their wins in Ontario are from the Liberals and not the Conservatives? And their bounce in the polls has resulted in handing the Conservatives a majority.

Most of the pickups for the NDP are in Quebec. Those gains may easily prove to be illusory. They were for Brian Mulroney when he dallied with Quebec nationalism. If so, then there is no long term gain for the NDP or the Left in Canada.

But I am dismayed at how many seats were handed to the Conservatives because people refused to vote for one of the other anti-Harper candidates in ridings where their preferred choices were too far behind to have a chance but where the Conservatives just squeeked by.

Harper and the Conservatives have indeed proven themselves to be master strategists. They have taken the same popular vote from 2008 (perhaps even lower) and turned it into a massive win by cynically playing Canadian against Canadian in a campaign based on fear. But what is even more annoying and discouraging is the Left’s self righteousness that allows the Conservatives to form government even while they go to bed safe in their own self regard.

I’m disgusted by the Conservatives. I’m disgusted by the Left.

Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. But it’s hard to imagine families with children, students, gays, pregnant teenagers feeling any better in the morning.

To think that over 60% of Canadians have not managed to figure a way to stop this tiny little man, Stephen Harper.

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